We finished part 1 with the Mission: Impossible franchise so we’ll be starting this one with the Cameron Crowe directed Jerry Maguire (1996)(3 Lukes). It seems to be popular to bag this film for some strange reason, especially for the “Help me, help you.” scene, but I confess I like this film. It is genuinely funny, Cuba Gooding Jnr is on fire, and the “You complete me scene.” is fantastic.
The following year Cruise chose 2 films that couldn’t be more different than Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut (1999) (which I mentioned in part 1) and Paul Thomas Anderson‘s excellent Magnolia (1999)(4 Lukes). Cruise had always wanted to work with Anderson, so even though his character, the loathsome self help speaker Frank T.J. Mackey, was a complete departure from his usual roles, he jumped at the chance. And it pays off. His performance is second only to Born on the Fourth of July. In fact everyone in this film brings their A game and I highly recommend it.
Unfortunately his next film is the unbelievably terrible Mission: Impossible II (2000), but he then moves on to re-team with Cameron Crowe with one of my favourites, Vanilla Sky (2001)(4 Lukes). A remake of the excellent Spanish film Open Your Eyes (1997), Cruise plays the part of David Aames, a rich playboy who learns exactly what it means to play with people’s emotions, just as he actually finds the love of his life. It’s not without it’s problems (which is why it doesn’t get the coveted 5 Lukes), but I really like this film.
Vanilla Sky also marks the start of a bit of a roll for Cruise, with his next 5 films all being at least 3+ Lukes. Minority Report (2002)(3 Lukes) sees him teaming up with Steven Spielberg for the first time as Chief John Anderton, who leads the Pre-Crime police unit and has to go on the run when he himself his flagged as a murderer. It’s an ok little sci-fi actioner and Cruise is fine as Anderton, but it is Samantha Morton as pre-cog Agatha who really does well. The scene where she uses her ability to guide them both through the Mall is great stuff.
Cruise then travelled to New Zealand for period drama The Last Samurai (2003)(4 Lukes), in which he plays the haunted & cynical Captain Nathan Algren, a veteran of the American Civil war who is hired to train a regiment of the Japanese army in order to defeat renegade Samurai leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) but is captured and finally finds the peace he craves with them. I absolutely adore this film. It is a running joke in our household that this is the one Tom Cruise film that Crystal has seen multiple times. Check it out.
Then for a change of pace, Cruise chose to play a villain (assassin Vincent) in Michael Mann‘s stylish slow burn thriller Collateral (2004)(3 Lukes). But he quickly returns to his (slightly) more heroic roots as desperate father Ray Ferrier in his second film with Steven Spielberg, War of the Worlds (2005)(3 Lukes). This is of course a remake of the brilliant 1953 version and for the first half it is a worthy re-imagining. But then the film changes tone and also ignores its own internal logic. Suddenly, Ray (who had just spent over an hour acting like a complete coward) unconvincingly starts to act like a hero, and the film shifts into a typical summer action film. But even worse is the ending. SPOILER ALERT – How the hell does Ray’s, incredibly annoying, son survive? It is unbelievable and ridiculous and is typical of Spielberg these days.
His next film is a return to the character of Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible III (2006), which is serviceable and good enough to erase the bad taste of MI2, but it also ends his streak. His next film is the quite boring political drama Lions for Lambs (2007)(2 Lukes) and an awesome cameo in the very un-funny Tropic Thunder (2008)(1.5 Lukes). Written, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder tells the story of a bunch of actors filming a war movie who unknowingly get caught up against real enemy drug dealers. As I said, the film is not funny, but Cruise’s cameo as incredibly offensive movie mogul Les Grossman is hilarious and easily steals the show. According to Stiller, most of the Grossman character was created by Cruise and he is clearly having a blast playing him.
Cruise follows this over the top performance with a more sombre one as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg in Bryan Singer‘s Valkyrie (2008)(2 Lukes), which deals with the real life plan by German officers to assassinate Hitler. He then teams up with Cameron Diaz as super spy in the disappointing Knight and Day (2010)(2 Lukes), and returned to the Mission: Impossible franchise with the far superior fourth instalment, Ghost Protocol (2011)(4 Lukes). In a change of pace he then joins an ensemble cast and even sings in the film adaption of the stage musical Rock of Ages (2012)(2.5 Lukes) as washed up rocker Stacee Jaxx. While no one will call him a great singer, he more than holds his own, especially in the performance of Rock you like a Hurricane with Julianne Hough (who is actually terrible). That same year he also return to a more action orientated role (what he seems most comfortable playing) as badass Jack Reacher (2012)(2.5 Lukes). I am a huge fan of the character Reacher, from the Lee Child novels, but Cruise is horribly miscast in this film. He does well enough (as he always does), but a 1.65m tall, 50 y.o. playing a character who is supposed to be 36 y.o., 1.96m tall with a 50-inch chest, and weigh between 100–115 kg just didnt work for me. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief. It should have been Chris Hemsworth. And on top of that, the film is disappointingly average, especially Rosamund Pike‘s performance.
That then brings us to his (currently) last 2 films, both sci-fi actioners, Oblivion (2013)(4 Lukes) & Edge of Tomorrow (2014)(4 Lukes). We have spoken about Oblivion a number of times on the podcast, and we even did a Film Flam on it. It is excellent stuff, and highly recommended. Edge of Tomorrow deals with the invasion of Earth by an alien race called Mimics (I’m not sure why though, they don’t actually mimic anything). Cruise is a cowardly military PR man who gets assigned to the front lines against his will. He is woefully unprepared and wont last long but for a twist of fate, a fatal encounter with an Alpha Mimic which accidentally grants him the ability to ‘reset’ each day (a la Groundhog Day), but unfortunately he has to die for this to trigger. This is a neat concept and it is played for just the right amount of laughs by director Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Jumper). The film feels very much like a computer game come to life, in fact it does a much better job of this than almost every film based on a game before it, and and everyone involved is great, especially Bill Paxton, who channels his Aliens character Pvt. Hudson in an attempt to steal the show. It is very entertaining and highly recommended. It is currently in cinemas and Bo & I review it in episode #96.
Cruise has a number of films currently in pre-production, including a return to his character Maverick in Top Gun 2, another Jack Reacher, and a fifth installment of Mission: Impossible. He obviously doesn’t intend on slowing down any time soon, and for his many fans that is a good thing.
I hope you enjoyed this look at Tom Cruise. He is a complicated man off screen, but he always strives to do his best to entertain his audience in which ever role he plays, and that is why he is one of the biggest stars in the world.