Tom Cruise will soon release his new action movie called American Made – a story about real life TWA pilot Barry Seal recruited by the CIA to help tackle a drug cartel in Central America. Sounds exciting,.. if you forget the fact that American Made will be the 10th action film in a row (not including Rock of Ages) where Tom Cruise is the lead.
When the pint-sized actor announced himself as the next big thing in Hollywood, it was in the 1983 comedy drama Risky Business. Cruise played Joel; a worried high school senior who wanted to get into a good college. Joel was anything but an alpha male, he was awkward and shy, and not particularly accomplished both academically or in sports. But Tom Cruise’s intensity and vulnerability brought a tremendous authenticity to the role, not to mention his acting ability.
Following on from Risky Business, Cruise became a global superstar with Top Gun in 1986. For the role of Maverick; the fearless young Navy pilot trainee with a point to prove, the young star portrayed the action man profile that would become his signature role, as he’s graced the silver screen in so many high octane blockbusters since.
But believe it or not, there’s a lot more to Tom Cruise than stunts and adrenaline.
In Oliver Stone’s 1989 Vietnam drama Born on the Fourth of July, Cruise played a paraplegic former soldier who becomes an anti-war activist. Or what about failing sports agent Jerry Maguire opposite Cuba Gooding Jnr? Or the unorthodox self-help guru, Frank TJ Mackey in 1999’s Magnolia? In all three of these movies, today’s action hero was nominated for an Oscar. In acting. Yes folks, Tom Cruise is in fact among other things, a very fine actor.
The problem is, acting and interesting characters seem to be secondary in his list of priorities these days when it comes to picking a role. He has made no secret of his fondness for action –
I love adventure movies, I just love action adventure films. It’s pure cinema and you go in and you’re lost to it. To me, it’s that challenge – I want to give an audience that ride, that entertainment.
Lets not forget that Tom Cruise is very suited to playing All American heroes. It’s hard to believe that he is now 55 years old, because he keeps himself in terrific physical shape. Perhaps his connection with scientology has a bearing on his projects. Cruise movies, whether they’re good or bad tend to make a lot of money at the box office. His last character role of any depth was probably 2004’s Collateral, the Michael Mann crime drama where he plays a ruthless vigilante style hit man, who kills as much based on principle as he does for a paycheck.
But what Cruise can display very well, (which is perhaps forgotten) is the frustration of a man who is struggling to accept that he is losing.
2005’s War of the Worlds showed this side to his ability. A macho blue-collar construction worker finds himself like the rest of mankind, on the verge of extermination in Stephen Spielberg’s last extra terrestrial movie. This movie was underrated, as Cruise was never the hero for a change; he was a normal guy in a setting that had a familiarity with some of his earlier character roles.
In other words, Tom Cruise can in fact play one of us, an average Joe who cannot ride a motorcycle at high speeds, or fly a F16 bomber, or abseil down the Grand Canyon. And this is the type of role he badly needs to play for a change. It would remind everyone that he used to be the biggest movie star in the world because of his talent.
I’m sure American Made is a solid film, but to be honest it looks just like Tom’s last 8 movies. And the character of Barry Seal looks just like Tom’s last 8 characters.
Let just hope Cruise gets bored of the guns and planes for a bit and decides to pick up a lawnmower, or a kids toy, or maybe even a nappy in his next role. That’s the Tom Cruise that we’ve all forgotten about. The actor.