I watched a number of Tom Cruise films recently while also looking after my newborn son, (Anders is now 2 months old!). Having a kid gave me both plenty of time to have something playing on the tv and plenty of reasons not to pay full attention to them. My wife Jodie and I have made it out of the house on occasion, such as to see Mission: Impossible 6 – Fallout in theatres, and I made it my mission to get her caught up on the adventures of Ethan Hunt, (seeing parts 3, 4 and 5). My side mission involved digging into Cruise’s earlier roles that I have always been curious to see, if for no other reason than to see his progression into starring roles. I was born in the mid eighties when his career was taking off, so he has always been a huge movie star in my cinematic viewing experience. My favorites of his include the first Mission: Impossible in 1996, Top Gun in 1986, and Minority Report in 2002.
I believe that a remake should wait at least a generation (about 20 years) before being made so that a measurable change can take place and distance itself from the past version. Mission: Impossible was a tv show from 1966-1973 and Cruise produced the new film version 23 years after it went off the air. I remember my school class was not allowed to see part 2 in theatres due to the nudity, (there was none, just an excuse they used to play it safe with us instead seeing an animated dinosaur movie). I would like to point out that this writing has nothing to do with my thoughts of Cruise outside of the film industry as I have a pile of his DVDs, not a pile of tabloids. Not that I am defending him either, (nor M:I2 or The Mummy, but I have not yet seen the latter).
I enjoy his films because they are well made, full of cool action pieces, are entertaining, and I am a fan of his cinematic charisma. The stunts in his films have begun to be the bench mark for the year, (see the latest 3 Mission: Impossible films), as the production values on his films are top notch. In these films I had fun cheering on him punching out baddies, using cool technology, or even his plain old detective work, but especially the eye catching stunts. The lengthy behind the scenes extra features on Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back praises Cruise’s skills at stunt driving, hand to hand combat, and even his direction on action scenes. Being successful in the business for this long has afforded him the resources and time to study and use (sometimes set) industry trends and train for stunts, (including piloting planes and helicopters himself). While the Mission: Impossible and Jack Reacher franchises are similar due to his starring role as the multi talented, gun toting, kick butt, running man, they differ due to the more individualist Jack Reacher vs the team centered Ethan Hunt. I prefer his Reacher, who is more like his Collateral role in terms of deadpan efficiency as opposed to his more light hearted roles in Knight and Day or Rock of Ages.
He has perfected what he is best at, being the charming, good looking action hero that still draws folks to theatres. I find the list of directors interesting for this batch of films. I get the impression that Cruise either works with an established director like Steven Spielberg (War of the Worlds and Minority Report) or Edward Zwick, (who won the Best Director Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, the pair also made The Last Samurai and Jack Reacher 2), or with far less experienced directors that he trusts are ready to make the jump to a big budget action film. Christopher McQuarrie directed the first Jack Reacher after a 12 year gap from his first film (Way of the Gun), and has since wrote Valkyrie (starring Cruise), and directed Mission: Impossibles 5 & 6. His earlier roles show him hungry to prove himself while also getting caught up in groups of young actors/characters. He learnt about filmmaking from directors like Francis Ford Coppola in The Outsiders, (Cruise was 20-21 years old, his 3rd film role), Ridley Scott in Legend (2 years later), and Oliver Stone in Born on the Fourth of July (earning Cruise his first of 3 Oscar nominations). Also praised in the extra features is his willingness to do whatever it takes to make the best possible film, his ability to set at ease new, young actors that often are nervous about starring opposite the long time movie star and help others shine, (see his villain opposite in M:I3 or his ally in JR2).
Taps and The Outsiders saw Cruise’s characters think with his (rifle/gang) while being in almost adult-less environments. He was mouthy, head strong, and wanted to prove himself. Not unlike his wanting to make a name for himself in All the Right Moves, Top Gun, and The Color of Money. His natural abilities (whether it be football, flying, or playing pool) or just flashing a toothy smile allowed his characters to be successful while being less able to communicate with the people closest to him. Such as his wife in Eyes Wide Shut, (which was based on a 1926 novel), or his son in War of the Worlds, (which came 52 years after the original film). His franchises (M:I and JR) make up half of his latest 10 films and as he shows no sign of slowing down, he will next be seen in the long awaited sequel to Top Gun and the sci-fi action Luna Park with director Doug Liman, (reuniting the two from Edge of Tomorrow and American Made).
Taps, 1981, Harold Becker
The Outsiders, 1983, Francis Ford Coppola
All the Right Moves, 1983, Michael Chapman
Top Gun, 1986, Tony Scott
The Color of Money, 1986, Martin Scorsese
Eyes Wide Shut, 1999, Stanley Kubrick
War of the Worlds, 2005, Steven Spielberg
Mission: Impossible 3, 2006, J. J. Abrams
Mission: Impossible 4 – Ghost Protocol, 2011, Brad Bird
Jack Reacher, 2012, Christopher McQuarrie
Mission: Impossible 5 – Rogue Nation, 2015, Christopher McQuarrie
Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back, 2016, Edward Zwick
Mission: Impossible 6 – Fallout, 2018, Christopher McQuarrie
(Title, Year Released, Director)