Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, over the past few years following an altercation for evermore known as the couch jumping incident, Mr Cruise has been the subject of ridicule, be it for his professions of love to the really quite annoying Katie Holmes (who does look as if she trapped in the marriage to be fair) as well as telling all and sundry about his Scientology beliefs, but people seem to have forgotten that he's a damn fine actor. I mean really if you look at the list of films he's been in over the last 15 years, you'd be hard pressed to find an absolute stinker. So, for your consumption I offer an analysis of these films from the last decade and a half to truly show that no matter what type of person Mr Cruise is like in real life, as an actor, he's pretty damn awesome.
Mission Impossible (1996)
In the movie going world, Bourne hadn't yet been made, and the Bond movies hadn't had their reboot yet and was still in the realm of the slightly silly. Mission Impossible fell somewhere in between the two, and in the movie ol' Tom is impeccable throughout. Betrayed and on the run, the movie (as many of Tom Cruises movies do) hangs togetehr though the strength of Ethan Hunt alone. No mean feat, whenever you consider how much is going on in the movie. But the whole running time, you're with Tom as he tries to wade through the confusion and double crosses. Never once is the audience in a position of superiority over the characters, and Ethan Hunt is played beautifully, conveying the confusion and realisations perfectly. If you want a specific scene to showcase just how good he is in it, find the restuarnt scene where Ethan is talking to the IMF agent who has set him up.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Now, Jerry Maguire isn't a perfect film by any means, but it's the only film in which I really cared for one of Tom Cruise's charcters. Not to say that I don't in other movies, but at least in this one he's a 'real' person, not a secret agent or LeStat. There are some heartbreaking and heartwarming moments in Jerry Maguire that Cruise nails, quite frankly. And his comic timing in this has never been better. Well, maybe in one film which I'll get to later.
Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia (1999)
Two very very divisive films. Two possibly great films, if you can stick with them. Having said that I've only seen them both once each, however Frank Mackey is possibly one of the greatest douchebags of all time, yet gets his reconciliation with his father nd by the end you don't hate, when really you should. And Eyes Wide Shut is just a masterclass of acting. Do yourself a favour and rent it.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
A remake of the Spanish original, Vanilla Sky is nonetheless a triumph of a film. Once again, you're with the protagonist the whole way, working out basically what the hell is going on. You think he's a tool at the beginning, you want him to get together with Penelope Cruz though, you hate him but also feel bad for his when he gets disfigured, you rejoice when he gets the surgery, and you certainly want him to 'open his eyes' at the end of it all. Vanilla Sky is perhaps my favourite Tom Cruise performance as there's so much for him to do in the space of 2 and a bit hours, and he does it with aplomb. Best scene:
Great line, superbly delivered.
Minority Report (2002)
Watched this recently, still holds up after 8 years. Cruise wholly convinces as the grieving man on the run, while still able to make you feel genuine emotion for him in what could have become Total Recall 2 (another Phillip K Dick story; don't get me wrong, I love Total Recall but it ain't what you'd call subtle). I think this movie illustrates, best of all, Tom Cruise appeal: you never forget that it's Tom Cruise you're watching, but somehow you feel he could just as easily be a man on the street.
You might think Tom Cruise would go over the top for his first major bad guy role, but no. He reigns it in as quiet killer, Vincent in Michael Mann's second best film. He's the epitome of a charming villian, the guy who'll kill you with a smile. He's a bastard to be sure, but a loveable one. At least he is when he's being driven around. The switch in the last half hour of the movie makes him full on chilling. And it's a true testament to the performance that you really do feel a tinge of sadness when he meets his end on the train. Not an explosive one, but rather a quiet contemplative one. He not redeemed, and certainly not likeable, but it's still quite emotional.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Perhaps his most convincing ordinary bloke role, it says something about the movie in that we care more about his character surviving with his daughter than the alien invasion, which was always meant to play second fiddle anyway. As the man just trying to stay alive, it's an acting tour-de-force especially in the scenes follwing the Tripods initial appearance, as well as the scenes with Tim Robbins. The post killing perfomance is pitch perfect.
Mission Impossible 3 (2006)
The best of the trilogy? Undoubtedly. Admittedly, a lot of this has to do with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's brilliant turn as the villain of the piece, but as we're following Ethan Hunt, it's still Tom's movie and he carries it well. Again, as proof of his great acting, the scene in which PSH is going to kill Ethan's wife is probably the best.
And now the funniest performance of Tom's career:
Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder.
And I am thorughly looking forward to Knight and Day, cause it looks like a great fun actioner with Tom Criuse playing a cross between Ethan Hunt and Vincent. And it looks awesome.
Also, he does most of his own stunts and is a bit of a mad man. And for that I think he brilliant.
Anyway, the defence rests.
Oh, and Mission Impossible 2 stinks. But that would have hurt my argument.