Tom Cruise returns this week in sci-fi, post-apocalyptic thriller Oblivion. To celebrate, our writers pick their favourite films from his lengthy and varied career.
“Great balls of fire! I feel the need, the need for speed. In case some of you are wondering, Top Gun sits up there with the best of the best. Now I’m not going to sit here and blow sunshine up its ass and maybe Tom Cruise these days is writing cheques his body can’t cash. Yet here Maverick (Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) really are cowboys and Iceman (Val Kilmer) doesn’t like them because they’re dangerous. These cowboys find themselves at the elite school for the top one percent of the United States Navy in order to learn the lost art of aerial combat. If they screw up just this much, they’ll find themselves flying cargo planes full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.
The late Tony Scott throws us deep within the eighties where every day was just another adrenaline-fueled dog-fight and cheesy dialogue. Although the love story may either take you to bed or lose you forever, the flying sequences will literally take your breath away. No need for any of that CGI rubbish, Top Gun can hold its own. Nottingham Forest knows the score; why else would they choose “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” for their anthem?”
Worlds away from the action Tom we all know and love lies serious actor Tom, who made an impact in the 1988 Barry Levinson film Rain Man. Rain Man tells the story of Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise), an arrogant and self-righteous ‘poor little rich boy’ who upon his father’s death finds out that half of his inheritance is awarded to a brother he never knew he had, a brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) who has a severe form of Autism and spends his life in a care facility.
Throughout Rain Man, Charlie grows to love Raymond as they take a trip through the United States. Cruise plays the role of a supercilious businessman coming to terms with his brother’s autistic traits excellently. The softer side of Charlie bursts through the callous exterior of his character and the chemistry between Cruise and Hoffman is beautiful.
Rain Man really shows Cruise’s abilities as an actor in ways that the action-thriller archetype that he has become does not. That’s not to say that Cruise isn’t great as constantly stage whispering, intensely squinting, kill or be killed characters but Rain Man shows something deeper. His ability to show emotion and be more than just a stunt actor and is simply a brilliant way to spend 2 and a half hours.
A Few Good Men
Can you handle the truth? Well, you can forget all his action roles, Cruise’s finest performance lies in the Aaron Sorkin scripted courtroom drama A Few Good Men. Cruise plays a maverick (there’s that word again) military lawyer defending a pair of Marines accused of murder.
It’s a testament to Sorkin’s talent as a writer, the justice system has never been this riveting since 12 Angry Men. But he can only do part of the work, not all performers can deliver his razor-sharp dialogue with wit and panache while keeping it believable. Cruise is one who can, despite playing a self-centered and lazy individual, he brings the charm that keeps you firmly on his side. Cruise holds his own, but it’s Jack Nicholson who steals the show in the closing minutes when the two become locked in a veracious verbal battle culminating in the famous line: “I want the truth!” “You can’t handle the truth!”, it’s worth seeing for this exchange alone.
“Respect the cock and tame the cunt.” For an actor often defined by his roles as being charming and approachable, Tom Cruise’s performance in Magnolia marks a huge departure for the actor. Before Collateral and Tropic Thunder, Cruise broke away from his traditional roles to take on the part of Frank T.J. Makey, a chauvinistic, egocentric self-help seminar leader. Fraught with vulgarity and intensity, Cruise’s performance playfully makes reference to his celebrity persona and adds a sordid element to his character.
Credit is of course due to director Paul Thomas Anderson, who did for Cruise what he had already done for Mark Wharlberg in Boogie Nights and would go on to do for Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love — providing a platform for a mainstream actor to add a new, alternative edge to their range as a performer. Cruise’s climactic scene is by far the most powerful performance he has ever delivered and overall his performance is wonderful to behold and a career high for the actor. His performance in Magnolia finds Cruise at his most seedy, his most vulnerable and above all his most magnetic as an actor.
Arguably Steven Spielberg’s last great film, Minority Report is set in a futuristic society in which Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) heads up the controversial Washington D.C. Pre-Crime, a system which predicts major crimes using the ‘precogs,’ three sisters with the ability to project the images of future crimes. After seeing the American capital bereft of murder for six years, the film’s premise arrives at the prediction of Anderton’s murder of an innocent man, forcing the Chief to run from the very system he has helped built to clear his name.
With a running time of almost two-and-a-half hours, Cruise may seem an odd choice for a film which also deals well with darker themes of self-determination, broken families, and dependence on drug use, but for the most part maintains a rare subtlety when tied to this larger framework of ideas. The film’s action scenes play out well, with Cruise as reliable as ever, though truly some of Minority Report’s best moments come at the hands of its supporting actors, including Samantha Morton and a young Colin Farrell.
A towering and intelligent sci-fi film, with a confident Cruise in its leading role, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Minority Report one of the most bold films this side of the millennium, and Cruise’s most memorable film in years.
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible III is great spectacle of Tom Cruise’s talent in the action-film industry, showcasing his enigmatic, adrenaline-pumped spirit. MI3 follows Ethan Hunt who, after taking a hiatus from IMF to focus on his newly wedded wife, Julia, returns to the field to bring down arms dealer Owen Davian.
This installment of the series is much more personal in its storyline and is, arguably, the most satisfying: JJ Abrams has really raised the stakes in these life-threatening, elaborate missions to make a truly satisfying story. MI3 is well-written and seamlessly executed, and it’s filled with plot twists, giving the story more depth than your run-of-the-mill action movie. Plus, it’s got a fantastic cast working alongside Mr Cruise: Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the calm but menacing Davian, possibly the best villain the series has seen, whilst Simon Pegg provides his classic awkward humour and Laurence Fishburne is thrown in for good measure, playing Class-A-twat Director Brassel.
Throw in Cruise actually getting his ass kicked for the first time in the series, a heaping measure of his iconic run, and his resurrection (after death by electrocuting himself), and you’ve got a fantastic Mission: Impossible movie. Well done, Mr Cruise.
Tom Cruise wanted to kill Hitler as a child, and this knowledge really sets the quality of the film from the start as he is cast as the somewhat impressive Colonel von Stauffenberg, a man disillusioned with the Nazi regime who wants to assassinate Hitler in order to ‘show the world that not all Germans are like Hitler’. Although Cruise exhibits some of his best acting skills to date in Valkyrie, something is still missing from this brilliant story. Perhaps Cruise was ill at ease playing a man with just one hand and eye, as opposed to his general superhero demeanour.
It’s not to say that Cruise is bad in this film, because he’s not, and if you can put aside his horribly misplaced American accent (the film is like a stir-fry of clashing accents), and a few other short-fallings, Valkyrie is a very emotional watch and one of his best. It’s just that maybe someone else could have done it better.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
After a lukewarm response to the third installment at the box office, Tom Cruise once again reprised his role as Ethan Hunt, America’s answer to James Bond, for a thrilling fourth outing.
Tom Cruise led a revamped but impressive ensemble in what is widely regarded as the best entry in the series yet. After a precarious mission ends in disarray, the IMF repudiates members of the team, who are assigned a covert operation, hence the title.
Ghost Protocol is a stylish and well-paced entertainer with captivating action sequences. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the movie is a stellar scene atop the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world, which involved Cruise climbing the building in spectacular fashion. Even at the age of 49, Cruise performed all his own stunts. The movie was declared a resounding critical and commercial success, culminating in the highest grossing film in the series and the highest grossing movie of Cruise’s illustrious career also.
The movie is special since it is a fitting testament to the resilience of Tom Cruise as a superstar. It is of little surprise that Ethan Hunt has chosen to accept his mission for a fifth time as well!