The Control of Cruise

Rock of Ages was arguably the biggest film disappointment of the summer for me. It was messy, it was stupid and it was not at all full of camp, like it easily could have been. As a guy who loves a good musical, I walked out hating almost every second of it.

Although, I am restricted to saying “almost.” Because amongst all the crap featured in the movie, one shining light broke through and made it bearable to watch; an actor who has never failed to impress me on the big screen.

I am referring to the silver-screen phenomenon that is Tom Cruise.

Some people may have already stopped reading by this point, but I implore you, hear me out. Yes, I am praising the same couch hopping, L. Ron Hubbard worshipping, maniacal laughing scientologist who bitched out Matt Lauer on national television. And you would have a point if we were simply talking about Tom Cruise “the man”. In fact, I roll my eyes at pretty much any “news” reported about his personal life.

However, Tom Cruise “the actor”, in his wheelhouse on screen, he simply can’t miss. He can’t.

Since his debut in the early 1980’s, Cruise has time and time again shown why he deserves to be considered the biggest movie star in the world.

We’re currently in an era of cinema where the idea of a “movie star” is fading. No longer is Harrison Ford giving us chills as Indiana Jones, but rather, is walking through generic cop roles barely on our radar. We don’t have the quick talking, “raw” Eddie Murphy we once knew.

No, the movie star as we have come to know it is slowly dying.

The likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are opening movies that can’t compete with blockbusters cast around no-names and newcomers. Audiences no longer pay to see big-name actors the same way that they used to. And that’s where Cruise becomes even more impressive.

Unlike his contemporaries, Cruise has maintained a high profile throughout his career. After his double hit of Top Gun and The Color of Money in 1986, the actor has consistently built a solid career out of playing big roles in big movies, with miniscule blips on his gleaming record. I would argue that out of any current “star” in Hollywood, Cruise has the most impressive hit-to-miss ratio.

We can look to the likes of Will Smith, another smash-hitter of the era. While he is constantly bringing in the bacon for studios, his career choices don’t carry the same critical acclaim that Cruise’s typically do. Wild, Wild West, Seven Pounds, Hancock; all of these movies made money, but they aren’t what you would call critics’ darlings, that is for damn sure.

Cruise’s career choices carry a much more refined intelligence towards the trends of the eras. He typically finds roles that tend to revitalize his career rather than stopping it in his tracks — unlike many of his peers. And more often than not, they break both the bank and the acclaim meter of the critics.

After providing a double whammy of Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire in 1996, he took a three-year hiatus and fired back against type-cast with the risqué Kubrick flick Eyes Wide Shut and as motivational sex revolutionist Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia, for which he received his third Oscar nomination.

Then, after a string of sci-fi actioners and Oscar-bait movies, he took a turn as the chilling antagonist in Collateral. Even after he basically erased all of his credibility in Hollywood through his marriage to Katie Holmes, and love proclamations on the top of Opera’s couch, he decided to re-invent himself with heavy make-up and vulgarity as mogul Les Grossman for Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder.

How many big name actors would risk humiliation in the same way that Cruise was willing to by dancing in a fat suit to Ludacris? That strategy has not aided Eddie Murphy all to well, so it was risky indeed.

It just seems that as many times as Tom Cruise can accidentally dent his image via his personal life, he can just as easily rope his audience back in through his film charisma. Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages was the silver lining, something Cruise often provides in his movies, and you could see his understanding of the fun that was required in pulling it off.

He really seems to grasp the concept of entertainment for his fans, and it’s that reason why he will always be someone I will line up to see on film. As a person, he’s odd, no doubt, but as movie star you would be hard pressed to find a better talent working today.

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