First Hit: It’s a Tom Cruise film and therefore you will always get everything he can give; full tilt entertainment.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it. Tom Cruise will probably never be in a film and be someone other than Tom Cruise. This isn’t a bad thing because he gives everything to each film he’s in. The issue is that you always know and see ‘Tom Cruise’, not the character he’s playing.
Here he uses the role and true story of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot that ended up working for the CIA and even the White House, to give the audience his, boyish charm, intensity, and action. Seal was a bored airline pilot who, on occasion, would turn off the auto-pilot and make the plane turn and twist in the sky just to wake up his co-pilot and passengers.
One day he’s approached by Monty ‘Schafer’ (Domhnall Gleeson) a CIA operative to fly spy camera photo missions in Central America. For this he will get a cool plane to fly, have lots of excitement, and make a little money. Without telling his wife he quits TWA and takes this new mission on, full tilt. Soon afterward, he gets a deal to smuggle drugs from South America on his way back from taking spy photos. This becomes very lucrative for him and he begins making a lot of money.
However, the DEA finds out and wants to bust him in his Louisiana home. The CIA is willing to turn a blind eye to the drug smuggling because of his excellent spy photographs and therefore move him and his family to Mena, AK. Here they give him more than 2,000 acres of land, an airport, hanger, home and a new plane.
He does so well for the drug cartel and the CIA that he buys more planes and men to fly them. He’s got hundreds of millions of dollars in banks, all over town, in his house, in his hanger, and buried in the ground around his home.
All the while he gets into scrapes that he gets bailed out from. Finally, he has to turn witness against the drug cartel and when he does, he’s in trouble. His punishment for all the drug smuggling was 1,000 hours of community service with the Salvation Army, which he does. However, the cartel isn't so lenient.
As I said the film is fun, and the action scenes are good with Tom making it all good fun.
Cruise knows how to make a film fun with his personality and ability to make the audience feel good. Sarah Wright as his wife Lucy was good. I loved her line about having to go back to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Gleeson was good as the CIA agent who recruited Seal. Jayma Mays was strong as the AK State DA who wanted to prosecute Seal. Gary Spinelli wrote an event filled script. Doug Liman let Cruise be himself and bring engagement and excitement to the screen. Just don’t think you’re going to see a meaningful story about Barry Seal.
Overall: It was an excellent vehicle for Cruise to be, well; Tom Cruise.