Though renowned more so for his action endeavours, such as Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity, director Doug Liman has always remained true to his indie sensibilities, as the man who brought us Swingers way back when, has always been a resourceful, creative force behind the camera, taking risks – and more often than not, seeing them pay off. His latest falls into that very category, stylistic and unconventional in its means of storytelling – while never once detracting from the quite staggering narrative, all of which, somehow, is true.
Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal, an erratic pilot seeking new ways to support his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) and children. Until he is one day approached by the CIA, as Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) convinces the talented flyer to take pictures on the Government’s behalf, flying low over South America and capturing footage to send back to the powers that be. With a healthy pay-rise on the horizon, he willingly accepts – and soon gets a taste for money, which he feeds (and then some) when he agrees to work for Pablo Escobar, and during his trips over to South America on behalf of the CIA, he’s to take back several packages of cocaine to the States. Needless to say the cash is flowing, but if either of his two employers find out he’s working for the other – he’ll either be imprisoned or killed.
There’s a glorious pace to this entertaining picture, with Liman using a quick-fire editing technique that enhances the unrelenting pace of the narrative, while playing in to the madcap nature of it all – with a story that takes a myriad of twists and turns you won’t have seen coming. On a more negative note, you do wish we’d been given a little more of an introduction, as the meeting between Barry and Schafer comes so soon into proceedings, we haven’t really got to grips with the sort of protagonist we’re dealing with, the financial pressures, nor the courage/stupidity he possesses, while it’s fair to say that the character of Lucy is criminally underused, as you just want to get to know her better, as her story is fascinating of its own right – much like we see with Karen Hill in Goodfellas – and Liman could’ve done with taking a leaf out of Scorsese’s book in that regard.
But that doesn’t take too much away from a film that offers a very pure form of entertainment that is easy to get on board with – while it’s always enjoyable to see Cruise take on a role that allows him to flex his acting chops, and not just run around with his top off for two hours solving impossible missions. In this instance he has an endearing volatility about his demeanour, and you believe he’s just one of those guys who says yes first and worries about the implications later on. Which, ironically, is exactly how you should approach buying a ticket for this particular movie.