This is based on a true story, and it's got a lot of angles, just
like the complex lead character, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise).
He starts out as a TWA pilot, but becomes a bit bored, apparently,
and longs for some adventure, and some adventurous flying.
He's already smuggling some Cuban cigars in his personal luggage,
which means he's the kind of guy who will bend the rules if it suits his
purposes. This makes him the
perfect target for the agent from “The Office,” Schafer (Domhnall
Gleeson), who is careful to not reveal too much, because it's all
classified information, you know. But
we want you, Barry Seal, to do some shady things for your government.
Oh, and there's likely to be some good recompense for you,
providing that everything goes as planned.
And of course it never does. But
that doesn't stop our high-flying risk-taker from delivering the goods,
wherever that may lead him. And
sometimes it's in places where you don't want to be the only stranger.
Barry Seal not only manages to smuggle drugs for money, he does so
thinking he's serving his country, because he's helping run covert
operations. Yes, to prop up
the Nicaraguan ruler, Noreiga, later found to be corrupt and summarily
toppled. But also to supply
arms to the Contra forces in Central America, which our Reagan-era
government called “freedom fighters,” because they were actively
curbing the spread of Communism in our hemisphere.
Barry Seal finds out that the what Contras really want is money,
which the Colombians have plenty of, due to the illicit drug trade, and
they're very interested in the guns (Russian-made AK-47s taken by the
Israelis from the Palestinians but converted to untraceable surplus).
So Barry Seal works out a three-way deal, which makes him a rich
man, because it's so successful. Everybody's
getting what they want, right? Barry
Seal loves both rolling in dough, and the idea that he's such a wildly
prosperous rogue, with clandestine creds.
But there are plenty of major players here to prevent Barry Seal
from getting away with his get-rich scheme for very long.
The Medillin Cartel is not to be trifled with, and neither is the
DEA, the ATF, the FBI, and the state police.
At first, his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) didn't want any part of
“dirty money,” either, until she realized how much there was to be
plucked like low-lying fruit. She's
home raising the kids and appearing to be a traditional Mom, but she's
also enjoying the obvious perks of financial windfall.
We all knew this wasn't going to last forever.
And despite Barry Seal being an obvious charmer, he can't prevent
some very unfortunate “leaks” from his government contacts, clearly
implicating him. So now
everybody's after him, and there are some dangers that not even
prosecutorial immunity can overcome. An
intruiging story, with just a touch of ironic humor, and enough ring of
truth to make you believe most of it, even at the price of skepticism
toward government operatives just slippery enough that the stink doesn't
stick to them.