Honestly, if I didn’t know that this film was based on the real life of Barry Seal, I may have walked out of the cinema, as what actually happened seems far too unbelievable to be true. How much of the film is what really happened and how much is poetic licence, I am unsure, but that guy had one hell of a life.
Seal (Cruise) was a TWA pilot who was approached by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions over South America to take photographs, then later to courier items between the US and General Noriega in Panama and then again to run guns to the Contras. It is during his Noriega mission that he was spotted and approached by Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar (Medellin Cartel) and asked if he would smuggle drugs back into the US for them. The lure of money won over against his sense of right and wrong. The government turned a blind eye for a while, but once they’d shut their missions down, he was left at the mercy of all the agencies. To avoid prison time, he makes a deal with the government to bring down Escobar et al. Suffice it to say, this didn’t go as planned.
The film is an explosion of hedonism and money, all on the back of despicable arms and drugs trading. Seal was seen as some sort of God by both sides, but in the end, he learned that playing both sides was not a winner.
While the film is entertaining and full of wild stunts, I still came out of it wondering how on earth this could be true. Governments are not to be trusted, we know this, but this film showed a whole different underbelly of corruption.
It does make me wonder how and why filmmakers chose to make a film out of such material. Is this the sort of thing we want to teach people – that this sort of activity is okay? Yes, it happens, but I don’t think it should be made so public.
Anyway, if you forget the reality, you basically couldn’t make this up….not in a way that would get people to believe it.
Believe it or not, I did enjoy this film, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.