Will action define Cruise’s legacy?
Action star back in cockpit for Top Gun: Maverick
The broad variety of opinions about Tom Cruise would make for a great book topic. Some think he’s the biggest movie star of all time. Some think he’s a lunatic. Some think he’s the hardest working actor of all-time. Some think he’s an evil alien from another planet. It goes on like that if you start looking around on the internet. Is he a good guy or a phony?
The cause for his variety of reputations can be boiled down to two things:
1. Notoriously, the time he was on Oprah and jumped up the couch and acted erratic for 15-20 minutes.
2. Cruise is thought of as the face of Scientology, an extremist religion that people love to talk trash about.
My take on the Oprah couch jump thing is pretty simple: who cares. Maybe the guy was having a manic moment, or maybe he just made some weird decisions that day. Yes, it was out of character for Cruise, but who cares? That couch jump thing has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re here to talk about: Tom Cruise’s work.
The Scientology thing? Shut up about it would be my advice. Is Scientology the worst of the worst? Who cares! We’re talking about movies! What do Tom Cruise’s religious beliefs have to do with the films he makes?
I do think there are reasons to complain about Tom Cruise, though. But not those silly reasons: real reasons.
For one, the guy is an adrenaline junkie who is obsessed with making action films that require very little character development. This is a complaint because Cruise is an excellent dramatic actor who has a presence unlike anyone else. I want so much more dramatic acting out of Cruise, and I feel robbed that in the last 20 years he has only been in six non-action films (against 16 action films). And, his next few years are currently all filled up with action sequels. No drama in sight.
Look at the first 20 years of Cruise’s career and you’ll be reminded of how great of a dramatic actor this guy was (and probably still is). So why, Tom, are you so hooked on making action films? Why not make another film with P.T. Anderson or Martin Scorsese or even Cameron Crowe or Oliver Stone? Remember when you used to work with some of the smartest filmmakers on the planet? Remember when you were the lead actor in the final Stanley Kubrick masterpiece? Why did you trade brilliant storytellers for brilliant technicians?
That, dear readers, is what an actual complaint looks like. Not the Oprah thing. Not the Scientology thing.
What I’m trying to say here is that Tom Cruise is a wonderful presence in our lives. Scroll through his filmography if you think I’m wrong. Does the way you feel about how the media portrays this man overshadow the amount of fun you’ve had watching his movies? And if so, why? That’s crazy to me, but I’m very open to hearing counter logic from readers.
So, with a said-to-be masterful new Top Gun film now hitting screens, I figured it was time to not just make my case for Tom Cruise, but to, of course, in classic ScreenTime style, make my Tom Cruise list.
This list is not based on the quality of Cruise’s performances, though, but rather on how much I like the film he was in. I decided to take this approach because Cruise is more than an actor. His legacy will be that he was the actor who went to great, great lengths to make sure that the production of every film he was in was top shelf in every way.
And Cruise is very, very good at this. Rock of Ages aside, show me a Tom Cruise film that was a total disaster, I dare you. All that being said, you wouldn’t ever say that Tom Cruise directed a film, but you could very often say that Tom Cruise directed a production. Anyhow, here we go …
15. The Outsiders (director Francis Ford Coppola; 1983)
14. War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg; 2005)
13. Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe; 1996)
12. The Firm (Sydney Pollack; 1993)
11. Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe; 2001)
10. Cocktail (Roger Donaldson; 1988)
9. The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese; 1986)
8. Minority Report (Steven Spielberg; 2002)
7. Born on the Fourth of July (Oliver Stone; 1989)
6. Mission: Impossible (Brian De Palma; 1996)
5. Rain Man (Barry Levinson; 1988)
4. A Few Good Men (Rob Reiner; 1992)
3. Collateral (Michael Mann; 2004)
2. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick; 1999)
1. Magnolia (P.T. Anderson; 1999)
Wow, look at all those legendary directors Cruise worked with.
It looks like 1986 through 2004 is my favorite Cruise era. And, honestly, I’d feel pretty good putting the batch of films he made during that era up against the run any other actor has had. It’s pretty remarkable. The problem, though, is that I haven’t truly loved a Cruise film since 2005. I’ve had fun at plenty of them, but I don’t think he’s made a true masterpiece since he made Collateral with Michael Mann in 2004, 18 years ago. And that’s tragic.
But maybe, just maybe, Top Gun: Maverick will be as amazing as I’m hearing it is. And, if it is, I’ll be here for it. It’s a rare film in which Cruise allows other big name, big talent actors to share the screen with him.
Hmm, maybe that’s part of his problem?