After a dull Jack Reacher sequel and Mummy misfire, it’s good to see Tom Cruise back with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman. Based on a true story, Cruise plays maverick top gun TWA pilot Barry Seal, recruited by the Carter then Regan-era CIA for covert op’s in Central America, first piloting a spy plane, then as a flying bag man, then gun-runner, all whilst developing a ridiculously lucrative sideline as a drug-runner for Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel.
When Barry asks if it’s legal, his CIA boss (Domhnall Gleeson) replies: “If you’re working for the good guys.” Though when it comes to meddling with South American politics, arming anti-communists and doing deals with drug cartels, good and bad get kinda blurry. The script, punchy, no-nonsense direction, frantic camerawork, and early 1980s colour scheme, are all indicators of filmmakers tipping their collective hats to Scorsese’s Goodfellas, in a rise-and-fall true-crime thriller with a morally dubious anti-hero at its core.
The supporting cast is superb, but this fast-paced, entertaining ride is focused on its protagonist. Cruise’s energy reminds us he’s not just a highly paid stuntman, he’s a charismatic lead with dramatic and comic chops. Anyone who’s seen Magnolia or Born on the 4th July knows Tom can act. Anyone who remembers Top Gun knows he can fly a plane, act cocky and grin. Funny as his Tropic Thunder turn, morally blinkered as his Collateral hitman, Cruise goes all in as Barry, and in having a ball delivers his best performance in years.