Tom Cruise’s trademark cockiness and cheese-eating grin takes on an appropriately disreputable edge in this breezy, fact-based action comedy.

He plays Barry Seal, a skilled but jaded pilot with a profitable sideline in smuggling Cuban cigars into the US. He starts making serious money, however, after the CIA covertly recruits him in the late-1970s to take reconnaissance photography of communist insurgents in Central America.

His clandestine activities rapidly escalate. Before long, he’s not only acting as a go-between for the CIA with General Noriega in Panama and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, but also running drugs and guns on the side for Colombia’s Medellin cartel as well. However, as personified by Domhnall Gleeson’s shifty, blind-eye-turning handler, it seems that the CIA itself is Barry’s most treacherous threat.

Dragging his dazed wife (Sarah Wright) and their kids along for the ride, Barry is flying by the seat of his pants. But he can’t stay aloft forever…

There’s a shaggy-dog feel to Barry’s escapades, giving the film a larky spirit even when things get scuzzy and the familiar Cruise charm curdles into sweaty desperation.