An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining true story. Packed with an astonishing sequence of absurd twists and turns, it's the kind of movie that could only be based on real-life events. But Cruise kind of overwhelms the material, turning it into a film about his trademark cock-of-the-walk swagger rather than an actual man who got caught up in a series of outrageous situations.
It opens in 1978, as airline pilot Barry Seal (Cruise) is approached by shifty CIA handler Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) and offered a great job flying over Central America and taking spy photos of freedom fighters and terrorists. With his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) oblivious, the job soon escalates into an arms-delivery service across the region. This introduces Barry to Colombian drug lord Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda), who offers him huge amounts of cash to carry cocaine back to America on his return flights. Soon Barry is running a massive business under the protection of the CIA, DEA and Reagan's White House. But these are dangerous people, and a series of shaky events reminds Barry how precarious his position is.
The film is narrated with videotapes Barry records in 1986 to document everything he got up to over the previous eight years. This gives director Doug Liman and screenwriter Gary Spinelli a framework on which to hang a series of rapid-fire set pieces, and the story leaps quickly from one crazy moment to the next, rarely pausing for breath. This is a lot of fun to watch, especially because the details scattered throughout the script are so jaw-dropping. But this race through the material doesn't offer much time for character development, and Barry never seems like a person in his own right: he's Tom Cruise, flashing that white grin while diving into a series of dangerous stunts.
Continue reading: American Made Review
Moviegoers who know nothing about the iconic 2003 Korean thriller will perhaps enjoy this half-hearted remake. It lacks the subtlety and irony of Park Chan-wook's deranged masterpiece, but Spike Lee brings a certain technical sleekness that holds our interest. Especially as the complex plot begins to twist and turn, gleefully pulling the rug out from under us.
It centres on Joe (Brolin), a drunken loser who blows his last chance at his job by coming on to a client's wife. The next morning he wakes up in a sleazy hotel room that turns out to be a locked cell where he'll be held for the next 20 years. He's shown news updates on how he's the prime suspect in his wife's violent murder, and he watches his daughter grow up in an adoptive family's home. Suddenly focussed on revenge, he plots his escape and then is caught off guard when he's inexplicably released. With the help of his old friend Chucky (Imperioli) and helpful nurse Marie (Olsen), Joe tracks down his flamboyant jailer (Jackson) and then the creepy man (Copley) who paid the bills and now demands that Joe understands why he did it.
Yes, the plot is a big puzzle, and watching the various pieces fall into place keeps us riveted to the screen, even if nothing is particularly involving. Lee's mistake is to play everything dead straight, with only the odd hint of black humour or underlying madness. Instead, we get bigger action fight scenes (cool but choreographed) and a variety of surprises and revelations that often make us gasp. And all of this is played with razor-sharp intensity by Brolin, who gives us just enough emotion to keep us engaged with his journey.
Continue reading: Oldboy Review
Nathan (Lautner) is a lively Pittsburgh teen with even livelier parents (Isaacs and Bello), although he sees a shrink (Weaver) to keep his anger issues in check. While working on a school project with childhood crush Karen (Collins), he stumbles across a missing-child website with a picture of him at age 3.
Suddenly he doubts who he really is, and indeed he and Karen have uncovered a secret involving a foreign agent (Nyqvist) and a CIA boss (Molina) who are both desperate to get their hands on some important information.
Continue reading: Abduction Review
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