Tom Cruise: The Maverick who accomplished an impossible mission, raged against age, and conquered Hollywood
Tom Cruise has cemented his stature as the most bankable star of our generation by starring in some of the most classsic hits of our time. It's time to get back to his acting roots
If there's one thing you can count on with Tom Cruise it's his ability to bring his trademark smile and ageless good looks to any project, be it going toe-to-toe with a raging Jack Nicholson, or saving the day with a Tomcat smile. And (James Bond fans can look way now) with his sixth outing as Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible franchise (Mission Impossible: Fallout) garnering rave reviews, there's no sign that the star's light is dimming.
Over the past two decades, Cruise has given us six Mission Impossible movies and the man can still kick it with the best of them, albeit with a slightly dodgy ankle these days. Tom Cruise seems to be living in a bubble where time cannot enter, an immortal shroud of teeth and charisma that will never age. There is a medical theory that humans, like snakes, shed our skin every seven years. In layman’s terms, we’re biologically wired to age. Clearly, this memo hasn’t reached the Cruise's far-from-grey anatomy.
Since we first saw him dancing in his skivvies way back in the Mesozoic Era, also referred to as 1983, in ‘Risky Business’ he has sashayed his way into our hearts with his dashing good looks and unfaltering box-office successes (well almost, we can't seem to forget Knight and Day, try as we might). The iconic scene from Risky Business has been rehashed more times than Charlie Sheen has been booked for a DUI.
Suffice it to say we got more than an eyeful of Cruise in 'Risky Business' - not that we’re complaining - a coming-of-age tale of a privileged college-bound teen Joel (Cruise), who gets a lesson on the real world from a prostitute (Rebecca De Mornay). Since the movie hit screens, Cruise has been a box office force to be reckoned with. There are few stars who hold the inexorable power to deliver constant smash hits with their mere presence in a movie, and Cruise is indisputably one of them.
For more than three decades, Cruise has been doing what he does best, starring in movies that ricochet between high drama, lethal action, and blush-inducing sexuality (Cocktail anyone?). And before one makes the mistake of thinking that Cruise gets by on a winning grin, cowboy swagger, and alien chutzpah, we must remember that the man has been nominated for an Oscar on three occasions.
And while Cruise may be better-known globally for his role as Ethan Hunt, anyone with a dream and a wish will look back at Top Gun as a crowning glory. So cliched it virtually has its poster next to the word in the dictionary, Top Gun proved to be the archetypal blockbuster. Where Steven Spielberg's Jaws scared the bejesus out of you, Top Gun rammed the bejesus back. There were no surprises, no WTF moments, but what there was was a derring-do of Flynntian proportions and a cinematic precursor to every shot Michael Bay would ever dream up: A testosterone-fueled ode to all things fast.
At the centre of Top Gun, the Cheshire pivot, was hotshot pilot Maverick, who is the bane and the boon of his commanding officers with his overt derision for all things orderly. And now there's the sequel Top Gun: Maverick. The tagline? "Feel the need"...we just did!
Then, of course, there's always Rain Man, coupling a certifiable acting genius in Dustin Hoffman with an actor who previously played a bartender in a film that's now best known as the music video for THAT Beach Boys song. Rain man was a triumph. An inconsiderate hustler (Cruise) looks to gain the confidence of his autistic brother (Hoffman) to lay claim to a fortune. What made this movie the defining moment in Cruise's career, up to that point, was his journey of self-discovery, not only as the character he portrayed but also as a person. It would spur him to such superb films as ‘A Few Good Men’, ‘Jerry Maguire’.
Then came Mission Impossible, and a gift horse that has never ever felt so self-conscious about its mouth before. The first movie was a hit, and then they all were, like a runaway freight train barreling down the tracks, destination Kaching! And eventually, whether you like the Mission Impossible franchise or not, for Cruise it has proved to be his saving grace. Sit down for this...if you take away the Mission Impossible movies, then Cruise has technically not had a box office hit since 2008! In fact, the list of films makes for shuddering reading: Knight and Day, Rock of Ages, The Mummy.
Cruise's next two projects will see him return to the fighter pilot seat in Top Gun: Maverick and then head back into space in Luna Park. The fear here is that Cruise will increasingly look to the safety of box-off-shaking all-action films, rather than explore the nuanced and extremely talented actor he is. We need more Vincent, more Jerry, more Ron, and sure, while we won't sniff at more Ethan, we need all of Cruise.
Until Cruise decides to cook his marinating acting chops we’ll just have to make do with Ethan Hunt racing through streets trying to save the world for the umpteenth time. But as we misquote the hilarious Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder: "A nutless monkey could do that job."