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Film Journeys

Tom Cruise

July 31, 2015

Tom Cruise.

Arguably one of, if not *the* biggest movie star alive today. He’s turned his hand to pretty much every genre of film. He’s also had a successful career as a producer and had a hand in various soundtracks of movies he’s been in. He’s been nominated for Academy Awards three times, nominated for BAFTAs and Golden Globes and as for the list of wins … well, put it this way: whilst other actors have their awards details contained within their biographies on Wikipedia, Tom has his own page – just for his awards.

This week sees the release of Mission Impossible Rogue Nation in UK cinemas and Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt – the leader of the IMF, (that’s the ‘Impossible Missions Force’, not the International Monetary Fund!). This is the fifth big-screen movie of the series that was originally, loosely, based on the 60s TV series.

The plot, such as it is, is simple and to the point: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

As has often been mentioned – usually by the man himself during interviews, he loves getting fully involved in the films he’s shooting and that includes performing his own stunts. In this film there’s a pretty hairy scene where Ethan is holding on to the side of an airplane as it takes off. Yes there were safety ropes involved, but just thinking about the physical and mental strain that must take on the 53 year old’s body. 5,000 feet up in the air and your *outside* the plane!

There is some clunky dialogue in Rogue Nation but it does have everything you’d want from a slick action based spy thriller: Car chases, explosions, well-orchestrated action scenes; this list goes on. Everything looks stunning and it all moves along at a good pace but the film is most successful when it reminds us that you really don’t get a much better leading action star that Tom. He does this type of role with such ease that it’s easy to forget how much this movie is riding on his shoulders.

#FilmJourneys is all about discovery and that’s why we try to choose films you may not have got round to watching when dealing with an actor as well known as Tome Cruise. We like to focus on a role that shows the actor in a way you’ve never seen before and that is why our second film in this journey is Tropic Thunder, from 2008.

This is an over the top, laugh out loud, pull no punches comedy that also stars Ben Stiller, (who directed and co-wrote the film), Nick Nolte, Robert Downy Jr., Jack Black and Steve Coogan. It’s the hilarious tale of a bunch of actors, trying to make a ‘real war movie’, but actually ending up getting lost in the Vietnam jungle, squabbling between themselves and ending up getting kidnapped by drug barons. All the while the actors think it’s all part of the style of gorilla-film-making with camera hidden in the trees; not actually releasing it’s all real and they are in a world of trouble.

We said this is a film where you see #TomCruise like you’ve never seen him before – this is because for the entirety of the film he is in a fat suit, arms and hands as hairy as a gorilla, with a nearly completely bald head. But it’s not just the make-up that does the work here; he gives his all to this performance and his comic timing is on top form throughout.

Whilst Tom had done comedy before, this is, perhaps, his most outrageous comedy role and it’s great to see him let rip, tear up the scenery and really go all out for this performance. Well worth a look – but be warned, this film is certainly not for little ears.

Our third and final film for this journey is Valkyrie, also from 2008.

This gripping thriller is based on a true story. By 1944, many senior German officers knew they would lose the war and that honorable surrender was the only way out. To do so however, they will have to eliminate their greatest obstacle – Adolf Hitler. To this end, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, an Army officer convinced he must save Germany from Hitler, is recruited to mastermind a real plan. To do so, he arranges for the internal emergency measure, Operation: Valkyrie, to be changed to enable a group of like-minded soldiers to seize control of Berlin after the assassination of the Fuhrer. However, even as the plan is put into action, a combination of bad luck and human failings conspire on their own to create a tragedy that would prolong the greater one gripping Europe.

Tom plays Colonel Clause von Stauffenberg with the conviction of a man who would do anything for his country.

A criticism sometimes leveled at the film is around the actors accents – which range from British to American to German; and with a cast this diverse, (it includes Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard and Tom Holland), it’s no wonder they took the decision to avoid the old war-film route of speaking with a German accent. Director Bryan Singer defended the choice at the time during promotional interviews, explaining that they used the device of Tom Cruise speaking German at the opening of the movie to get the audience into the feel of the piece, before leaving the rest of the dialogue in English.

It’s an effective, if at times slim, thriller – well worth checking out; mainly because of the solid, dramatic performance given by Tom.

So we’ve seen him in action-movie-star-mode in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, in gleefully playful comic mode in Tropic Thunder and as serious, dramatic leading man in Valkyrie. There were so many films we could have picked from his career including some of the following ‘honorable mentions’…

  • Top Gun
  • Legend
  • Risky Business
  • The Colour Of Money
  • All The Right Moves
  • Born Of The Fourth Of July
  • Days Of Thunder
  • Far and Away
  • A Few Good Men
  • The Firm
  • Interview With A Vampire
  • Mission Impossible
  • Eyes Wide Shut
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Vanilla Sky
  • Minority Report
  • War Of the Worlds
  • The Last Samurai
  • and… Rain Man

It will be very interesting to see where Tom turns his career to once the body eventually says ‘no’ to dangling off a plane or climbing up a building. However, going by the strength of his physical performance alone in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, I don’t think that’s a question he’ll have to publicly answer any time soon.

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