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Career Impossible: A Tom Cruise Retrospective


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Tom Cruise is a remarkable actor and I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I am surprised his career is still going strong. Cruise’s career has taken hit after hit, both on and off screen, but it seems no amount of couch jumping weirdness has slowed him down and at the age of 50, he is still one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. This will once again be evident in December when Cruise portrays the popular fictional character Jack Reacher on the big screen.

Now, an actor’s behaviour off-screen often has effects on their career on-screen. The amount of car crashes that Lindsay Lohan has been a part of can very much be seen as a metaphor for her career and Paris Hilton’s inane, stuck-up, bitchy and chalk-board scratching annoyance had audiences cheering at the sight of her bloody death in House of Wax. For Cruise, being the unofficial face of Scientology is his possible career kryptonite. Scientology isn’t the most popular of religions, in fact there are numerous arguments about whether it is more cult than religion, not only that but the rules scientologists are supposed to abide by are creepy, confusing and just plain weird. There are numerous celebrities that follow these beliefs, but none seem to be more vocal about it than Mr Cruise himself and some of the views of scientology don’t really sit well with the masses. On top of that there has been a lot of damaging rumours and incidences surrounding Cruise, such as his sexuality, whether his Kidman marriage was a sham, his rocky divorce to Katie Holmes and let us not forget the infamous moment he declared his love for the latter.

Anyone of those elements should have been enough to kill Cruise’s career and turn audiences off to his on-screen charm, but somehow there seems to be no stopping his career. The reason is simple, Cruise has not had that career ending bad performance. Oh, he’s been in some bad films (Cocktail, Eyes Wide Shut, Vanilla Sky), don’t get me wrong, but he’s still managed to deliver some pretty decent performances. He’s yet to have the career shattering John Travolta in Battlefield Earth performance that kills careers instantly. Also, any of Cruise’s bad films have usually been followed by some of his best work. Cocktail came out the same year as Rain Main, the shambolic attempt to prove his marriage to Kidman was legit in Eyes Wide Shut was in the same year as his Academy Award nominated performance in Magnolia. Also, anytime Cruise’s career begins to dip, he always has the ever reliable Mission Impossible franchise to return to, or he can shock audiences into liking him again by doing something unexpected such as Tropic Thunder or Rock of Ages.

So, despite his weirdness off-screen, you cannot deny that Cruise is a great actor and a bankable movie star. You need only see his blockbuster credits and Academy Award nominations to prove this. But, rather than go on about his Mission Impossible triumphs, or why he should be holding the Oscar for Born on the 4th of July, here are some of my favourite, and less obvious, Cruise performances.

Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man (1988)

It may be because I am the sibling of an autistic person myself, but I found Cruise’s performance a lot more engrossing to watch in this film. Don’t get me wrong, Hoffman’s performance was fantastic, but it does annoy me slightly that he got all the credit for this film when Cruise deserved as much plaudits for his performance.

Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

This didn’t really sound like the kind of film that Tom Cruise should be starring in, particularly given his previous works. When about to watch this film, I was worried it would be the Top Gun of Vampire movies, overly camp full of cheesy one-liners and incredibly hammy acting……so Twilight, basically. Luckily, the film was nothing like I feared and Tom Cruise was one of the standout performances in the film. The only qualm I have was that he was essentially a supporting character, despite the cover making him out to be the lead, so sadly we had to endure Brad Pitt’s Ikea worthy performance for the majority of the film.

Ray Ferrier in War of the Worlds (2005)

I’ve expressed my qualms with film remakes on this site before, however this was one of the remakes I actually liked. Although this was the film that made me realise just how much Tom Cruise runs in all his movies. The performances from Cruise and Dakota Fanning ere very strong, you really got the sense of threat and danger from their performances alone, without the need of, what were essentially, laughable looking aliens.

Roy Miller in Knight and Day (2010)

Despite mixed reviews, I really enjoyed this film. On paper it was another generic, boring and bland action film, styled for a heartthrob actor and a hot looking actress. Luckily, the two choices were Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz who really gave life to the script. This film, to me, proved that Cruise doesn’t need a bald cap and a fat suit to prove that he is funny. The action genre is his bread and butter, but this film gave him a great opportunity to show off his comic timing, and give a likeable and entertaining performance.

Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages (2012)

This film is a little bit too bad to be considered a guilty pleasure, so for me it’s the kind of guilty I’ve-been-sentenced-to-death-row pleasure. Sadly, the film chooses to focus  too much on the two leads, both seeming to be drop outs from Glee, and thus take away from Tom Cruise’s volatile, rude and utterly hilarious performance as the burnt out rocker Stacee Jaxx. Again, another film that allows Cruise to show off his comedic chops, as well as his vocal chops as it turns out he’s got a pretty decent singing voice and he delivers some good covers of “Dead or Alive” and “I wanna know what love is.”

So, that’s my retrospective of Tom Cruise’s career and despite the hits he’s taken on and off-screen, his career is still going strong with no signs of slowing down. For now, here’s the trailer for Jack Reacher which hits UK cinemas on 26th December 2012.




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