Tom Cruise Filmography – Part 2
Part II of Tom Cruise’s filmography spans 11 years, from A Few Good Men to The Last Samurai. With a few exceptions, I had already seen most of the films included in this section either in the cinema or on VHS/DVD. Because I had seen them, I wondered if it was really necessary to watch them again. I decided that to be “honest” with this piece, I should suck it up and do it. (There is only one film that I refuse to revisit. One day, maybe.) Some of the films I genuinely hated when I first saw them – Interview with a Vampire, for one – and I was dreading the thought of spending another two hours with them again. But I’ve been surprised by this project. It has revealed to me how much circumstances dictate our experience. And really how much we, ourselves, change over time; how much our perceptions change. In fact, I would never have considered myself a “Tom Cruise fan.” But the more time I spend with him, the more I like him. He’s an exceptional action star – I love to watch him run – but he’s also a great dramatic actor. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t seen him in The Last Samurai.
A Few Good Men (1992) – Aaron Sorkin adapts his play for the big screen in this military, courtroom drama that is directed by Rob Reiner. It begins at Guantanamo Bay, where Pfc. William T. Santiago (Michael DeLorenzo), a sickly and frequently complaining Marine, is grabbed from his bed, bound, and has a rag shoved into his mouth, which is then taped shut by fellow soldiers Pfc. Louden Downey (James Marshall) and Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison). When Santiago dies, the military has to figure out what to do with his assailants. That’s where Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) of Internal Affairs comes in. She wants to be assigned as legal counsel on the case, but her superiors have other plans. They bring in Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), a fairly green and somewhat lazy Navy lawyer who has a habit of pleading every case down. (He’s never seen the inside of a courtroom; something of which he’s very proud.) Initially, he’s more than happy to cut a deal with Capt. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon). But Galloway keeps on him. She’s confident that they should follow the case further up the chain of command to Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson), a haughty man with a temper who will do whatever it takes to keep his country safe. Sorkin deserves the lion’s share of praise for how well A Few Good Men works. He delivers a sharp, intelligent screenplay with fascinating characters. I saw this film when it came out in the cinema, and liked it then. Now that I’m quite a bit older, I can appreciate it so much more. It has everything going for it, from an amazing cast that also includes Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, Christopher Guest, Noah Wyle, Cuba Gooding, Jr., to a fine score from Marc Shaiman. Nicholson, Cruise, Moore and Pollak are at their best. A Few Good Men may be nearly 20 years old, but it hasn’t aged a day. It’s an example of great cinema. If you haven’t seen it, you need to remedy that. I’m really glad that I revisited it. 5 stars out of 5
The Firm (1993) – Based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel and directed by Sydney Pollack, this legal thriller centers on Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise), a Harvard Law School graduate who graduated No. 2 in his class and who clerked for a famous judge. These two factors alone make him the hottest property in the legal community, and firm after firm come a courtin.’ His best prospect, though, isn’t a big city firm, but one from Memphis, and the big shots there are willing to give him everything he wants, including a low cost mortgage, a newly leased Mercedes, and a six-figure salary. What convinces McDeere to accept their offer is the fact that the firm is like a “family.” While McDeere is exhilarated by his fortune, his wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn) isn’t so sure; she’s a bit nervous about how much the firm wants to control everything. For instance, they are “OK” with wives working outside of the home, but they strongly encourage children. It promotes “family” and “stability.” If it all sounds very Stepford Wives meets the Christian Coalition of America … that’s because this is some scary stuff. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. I’m not a fan of Grisham, but this is a decent thriller. The fact that the firm controls every aspect of their partners’ lives is unnerving. Pollack has assembled a top notch cast here, including Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook, Wilford Brimley, who plays a rather nasty security chief; Ed Harris, Gary Busey, David Strathairn, Jerry Hardin … and the list just goes on and on. Holly Hunter plays my favorite character in the film, Tammy Hemphill, a bleached blonde assistant to Busey’s short-lived private investigator. If you have no other reason to see The Firm, see it for her performance. For those interested in Cruise’s athleticism, he has a scene during which he does a kind of gymnastics routine and then he runs and runs and runs. At one point, he is absolutely drenched in sweat. This guy works hard for his money. My only complaint about this flick is that at 154 minutes, it’s a bit long winded. 3.5 stars out of 5
Interview with the Vampire (1994) – At the beginning of this horror/drama, Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater) meets Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) in an alley, and accompanies him up to his room. There Louis reveals his life story, explaining how he became a vampire at the hands (teeth?) of Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise), how they created their vampire daughter, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst); and finally how he encountered a group of vampires living in Paris. The story spans several hundred years and is one of suffering, regret and loss. Interview is directed by Neil Jordan from a screenplay written by Anne Rice, the author of the novel on which it’s based. I have long had a deep hatred for this film. Now, I’m wondering what my problem was. Well, I do. I saw this in the theater with a person with whom I shouldn’t have and, if I remember correctly, it was a super late showing. I was, no doubt, uncomfortable and tired. So let that be a warning to you. See movies by yourself while you are well rested. But seriously, for me the first half of Interview is a difficult movie to watch, primarily because of the brutality of the vampire “attack” scenes. Too much crunching on necks, breasts and wrists and blood stained teeth. That said, this is one of the better vampire films available. It explores the mythology well, and has a dynamic vampire at its center – Lestat. When I was much younger, I liked Louis. Now that I’m older, I find him to be an overly whiny, melancholy twit. He’s given a choice to be a vampire, and he says “yes” to the opportunity, so he needs to stop bitching and blaming Lestat. Cruise always seemed to be an odd choice for Lestat, who, I think was based on Sting. He’s wicked but delightful; cruel, self-satisfying, decadent and unrepentant. Despite his many flaws, I would hang out with him. At least he isn’t moaning and moping about everything. (Louis is insufferable.) The brightest star in the film is Dunst¸ an actress I have never liked. But here, she is absolutely mesmerizing. Her character is a young girl whose mother has died from “the plague.” Louis comes upon her and bites her, then panics and leaves her for dead. Lestat, trying to keep Louis from leaving him, turns her into a vampire; makes her their doll-like and highly pampered daughter. Over time this sweet child becomes bitter and angry at the fact that she can never grow up; she is a “woman” stuck in the body of a child. Dunst, who was 12 years old while making the film, plays Claudia as adorable but savage. She’s one evil little bitch. I sort of loved her. Pitt looks great in the film – long hair suits him as do those awesome Husky blue contact lenses – but he’s lackluster. Cruise, sporting a curly blonde wig and those same blue contacts, is wicked, feisty and delicious. One of his most surprising performances. Seeing Stephen Rea and Antonio Banderas as vampires is just the icing on the cake of this experience. When I originally rated this film, I gave it one star. I have amended that, bumping it another three. 4 stars out of 5.
Mission: Impossible (1996) – Directed by Brian DePalms from a script by David Koepp and Robert Towne, this action film begins with an IMF (Impossible Missions Force) team, led by Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), trying to prevent a NOC list (it contains the code and real names of current agents in the field) from getting out into the open. But before they can, they are compromised and most of the team members end up dead. Disavowed agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) contacts the NOC list buyer, Max (a delightful Vanessa Redgrave), hoping that she will lead him to Job, the IMF “mole” who betrayed him and his team. Working with Claire (Emmanuelle Beart), Phelps’ wife who also mysteriously survives, he assembles a new team with the goal of infiltrating CIA headquarters to procure the real NOC list and so on and so forth. The plot is actually way more complicated than it needs to be, and I didn’t remember what this film was about until I rewatched it for this piece. Nevermind. I still enjoyed it the second or was this my third time seeing it? It has a great cast – Emilio Estevez, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ving Rhames, and Jean Reno – as well as some really intense action sequences. Who can forget the image of a glasses wearing Cruise as he hovers just inches above the floor in the inner chamber at the CIA headquarters? Or the phenomenal sequence toward the end that features Cruise and Voight on top of the TGV while Reno is pursuing in a helicopter? I’m a sucker for spy thrillers and action films, so this one makes me nostalgic. There’s also a pretty decent soundtrack by Danny Elfman. I don’t remember if it’s used in the film or not, but the Edge and Larry Mullen Jr.’s reimagined Lalo Schifrin’s Mission: Impossible theme for this flick is so amazing it hurts. 4 stars out of 5
Jerry Maguire (1996) – Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, this comedy/romance centers on a sports agent, the titular Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), who has a moral epiphany about how his industry should be conducted. He types out his manifesto – building relationships is a cornerstone – makes tons of copies, puts them in binders and delivers them to his fellow agents. His honesty gets him fired. Only one co-worker, a single-mother who is an accountant, Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), leaves with him. Determined to stay in the game, Jerry calls all of his clients, asking them to stay with him at his new endeavor, but they are poached, one by one, by Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr). One remains loyal – Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a football player who only has a few good years left in his, so he wants Jerry to “show me the money.” When I saw this in the cinema, I hated it. When I rewatched it, I fell in love with it. Amazing what happens when you revisit films many years later. What I liked best about Jerry Maguire was the relationship/chemistry between Cruise and Gooding Jr. In a way, I wish that Crowe had jettisoned the romance and just focused on these two characters, but alas … I don’t usually like Zellweger, but she is OK in this film. She wasn’t as pouty and pinched faced in her early years as she is now. And long before fame came along, she was actually kind of cute in an awkward way. This is undoubtedly one of Cruise’s better performances. Gooding Jr.’s character is really annoying – he’s very demanding, very high strung – but also very likable. (Considering that he won an Oscar for this role, it’s sad to see what has happened to his career.) The spiked-haired and bespectacled Jonathan Lipnicki, who plays Zellweger’s ever-smiling son, steals every scene. He’s as cute as I remembered him to be. Lots of great supporting performances, especially by Bonnie Hunt, who plays Zellweger’s sister; Kelly Preston, as Cruise’s fiancée Avery Bishop (man, she’s a total bitch), and Todd Louiso, who plays Chad the Nanny. It was also surprising to see Jerry O’Connell as a much desired footballer. Man, he was young. On paper, Jerry Maguire looks like an overly long film – 139 minutes – but you don’t really feel it. 4 stars out of 5
Magnolia (1999) – Written and directed by P.T. Anderson, this drama is “an epic mosaic of several interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.” Tom Cruise plays Frank T.J. Mackey, a “master of the muff” and author of the Seduce and Destroy system that helps any man get any woman into his bed. Because Magnolia has a running time of 188 minutes, nearly as long as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1956), a film I’d much rather see again, and because I truly loathed it the first time I saw it, I’ve decided not to revisit it for this piece. I rewatched some of Cruise’s scenes on YouTube to jog my memory. It’s a great performance. Mackey is essentially a motivational speaker with an enormous chip on his shoulder. Cruise doesn’t shy away from taking the character all the way, making him seem as sleazy and misogynistic as possible. I loathe the character and find him offensive, but I appreciate the fact that the actor, known for being polite and friendly, is playing against type and taking some real risks. If I were to rate this on his performance alone, it’s definitely a 4 star. He got robbed of an Oscar for supporting actor. The film itself will have to stick with my original rating: 1 star out of 5.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – Stanley Kubrick’s final film, and what an absolute pile of navel-gazing drivel this is. Based on the novel by Arthur Schnitzler, this NC-17-rated drama/mystery/thriller begins with Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman) getting ready for a Christmas party that is being thrown by Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). While there, Alice gets drunk on champagne and dances with a Hungarian man who does his best to seduce her; Harford gets called upstairs to Ziegler’s room, where he has to revive a prostitute who nearly overdoses. Not long after the party, the couple smokes a joint, which leads to a discussion on the subject of fidelity. He claims that he would never cheat on his wife; she admits that a while back, she saw a naval officer and, in that instant, realized that she would give up everything – her marriage, her child, her life for one night with the mysterious stranger. This out-of-the-blue confession shakes Harford to the core, and soon he’s going out at night, meeting young prostitutes and going back to their place, and, even “crashing” costume parties in which masked big shots engage in arcane rituals and exhibitionistic sex acts. Harford doesn’t “belong” at the party, and a mysterious woman tells him that if he doesn’t leave, his life could be in danger. He doesn’t listen to her, and is “found out.” What follows is sort of a mystery, I guess, asking us to consider what was real and what was actually just a dream. The film is very long – 159 minutes – and, for the most part, nothing really happens. Kidman, who takes off her kit pretty often, delivers a decent performance, but I’m afraid, Cruise is miscast here. In fact, if I had to draw up a list of actors to play Dr. Harford, he wouldn’t have been among my Top 100 choices. He seems a bit confused by the material, and is a bit too “nice,” always saying please and thank you. I didn’t buy it. Also, was this film supposed to be titillating or shocking? Maybe it is to some people, but considering that the people at the party are adults engaging in consensual acts in a private residence, what’s the problem? The oddest thing is that Cruise is never shown fully naked and never engages in sex with anyone. Kidman is the one taking all of the risks. The worst part about the film was the fact that the owner of the costume shop (Rade Serbedzija) ends up whoring out his underage daughter (Leelee Sobieski) to some Japanese businessmen. Yuck. The soundtrack has a few nice pieces, but towards the last half is essentially one piano key pressed over and over again. It’s like some kind of torture, and I started muting it after awhile. Overall, I really disliked this film. I think it would have been much better if it had been cut in half and remade either by David Lynch or David Cronenberg. I’m already imagining the possibilities. 1.5 stars out of 5.
Mission: Impossible II (2000) –For some inexplicable reason, the MI franchise was turned over to John Woo, who was working from a Robert Towne screenplay. (Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga came up with the story.) In this film, a scientist, Dr. Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija), infects himself with the chimera virus and boards a plane in Sydney, headed for the U.S. If he has the virus in his system longer than 20 hours, horrible things happen. But he doesn’t have to worry about that, because another IMF agent, a now-gone-rouge Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), kills him, and steals the chimera virus and its antidote Bellerophon. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is on vacation when he is summoned by Mission Commander Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins). His mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to assemble a team to retrieve chimera. The only proviso is that he must recruit super international thief, Nyah (Thandie Newton), which he does in Spain. And then he falls in love with her, and it all goes pear-shaped. With the exception of the sequence during which Cruise is climbing in Moab, and the inclusion of some pretty top notch actors, including Richard Roxburgh and Brendan Gleeson, this film is horrible, horrible, horrible. In fact, unless you told someone that this was a Mission: Impossible film, they probably wouldn’t know it. It feels too James Bondesque. But that’s being too nice. Because John Woo cannot make a straight forward film without adding his signature nonsense, you have something that feels more like Face/Off mixed with Hard Target and then scrambled with Hard Boiled. Don’t believe me? Cruise shoots with two guns a la Chow Yun-Fat; there is a lot of hysterical acting from bad guy Scott; and there is even a sequence that features pigeons and a white dove. There’s also the obligatory Christian symbolism, and a very long motorcycle fighting sequence. And for some reason, Cruise sports longer hair and a very good tan. Too much slo-mo, the film is way too long, and … I despise this more than anything on Earth. I saw it in the cinema when it came out and disliked it. Watching it again just made me hate it more. This should have been the death of the Mission: Impossible franchise only for some stroke of luck this film actually made money. 1 star out of 5
Vanilla Sky (2001) – Directed by Cameron Crowe, this sci-fi/mystery/romance is a remake of Alejandro Amenabar’s Abre Los Ojos, a truly phenomenal effort. It centers on David Aames (Cruise), a guy who has it all: good looks, lots of money, power and luck with the ladies. His luck runs out after he meets Sofia (Penelope Cruz, who was also in the original), a dancer with whom he becomes smitten. His flirtation with her enrages his sometime “fuck buddy” Julie (Cameron Diaz), a beautiful but truly unstable woman. To get back at him, she drives her car, with him in the passenger seat, off of a bridge. She dies; David is disfigured. What happens next is a case of “what is real” and “what isn’t.” The original film was 10 times the film that this one is, but only because Crowe ruins his effort by including tons of pop culture references, seriously bad music choices, and an ending that is over-explained. It’s almost as if he thought “no one will get this so I better treat them like they are idiots.” Insult my intelligence, and I will cut you. I dreaded rewatching this film because I remember hating it so much. A second viewing didn’t improve anything. In fact, it might have been a worse experience the second time around. Believe me, there will never be a third. There are a lot of good actors in here – Kurt Russell playing the psychiatrist, Tilda Swinton as a … well I can’t reveal that, Noah Taylor as an IT guy, and even Michael Shannon as a prison guard. But, again, no amount of star power could elevate the quality of this film. Let me leave you with one example of how naff this is: during one sequence Cruise is having a breakdown – it’s a serious moment – and the song chosen for this is Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. Enough said. Cruise is really horrible in this. Next to Eyes Wide Shut, this is one of his worst performances ever. 1 star out of 5.
Minority Report (2002) – This is probably one of my favorite Steven Spielberg films and, next to Blade Runner, one of my favorite adaptations of a Philip K. Dick story. This sci-fi mystery is set in Washington, D.C., in 2054. Thanks to the discovery of three telepaths – Arthur (Michael Dickman), Dashiell (Matthew Dickman) and Agatha (Samantha Morton) – murder rates have plummeted by 90 percent. How does this happen? Once the telepaths “see” someone committing murder, they produce a ball that gives Pre-crime agents the names of the victim and the perpetrator. They also give a time and date of the crime. It is then up to the agents to track down the “murderer” and make the arrest. Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise), the division’s top agent, joined Pre-crime six years ago, largely because his own son, Sean, was a victim. And he is behind the program 100 percent. That is until Agatha makes contact with him and shows him that maybe the system isn’t infallible after all. When I saw this in the cinema, I was a fan. After rewatching it on Blu-ray, I’ve become its cheerleader. It is one of Cruise’s and Spielberg’s best. The script by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen contains plenty of action and heart, and, I love it, because it makes you think, specifically about free will and predestination. The visual effects are amazing, and the casting is spot on with fine performance by Max von Sydow and Colin Farrell. Lots of good cameos, too, including Tim Blake Nelson and Lois Smith. My favorite is by Peter Stormare, who plays a very strange ocular surgeon. This film made me fall in love with Morton. She delivers a powerful, Oscar worthy performance. I couldn’t love this film more if I tried. One of my Top 10 sci-fi faves. 5 out of 5 stars
The Last Samurai (2003): At the beginning of this historical drama Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is backstage at a sort of Wild West show, drinking himself numb. This soldier was involved in various raids on the natives – he knew Gen. Custer – and he is deeply wounded by the atrocities he committed. An old friend of his, Zebulon Gant (Billy Connolly), finds him at this Wild West show and tells him about a great opportunity: Several Japanese “officials” are looking for a few men who can train and modernize their “army,” so that they can take on Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) and his samurai resistance force. At first Algren isn’t interested, but his superior, Col. Bagley (Tony Goldwyn), convinces him otherwise. In Japan, the disillusioned soldier does what he’s being paid to do, and eventually, the militia engages the “enemy.” But these peasants turned soldiers are no match for the samurai – who come riding in on horses and wearing full armor – and Algren is wounded and taken captive. When I heard about The Last Samurai all those years ago, I remember being disgusted that a film about the samurai was to have a “white” lead. (That’s Hollywood for you.) In protest, I suppose, I refused to watch it. I don’t know what changed my mind, but I bought a copy of the movie and sat down with it, still convinced that the experience would be a bad one. I was wrong. This is a story about honor, loyalty, forgiveness, and compassion. It might be a bit overly romantic, and people complain that it isn’t historically accurate, but I don’t really care. John Logan crafted a story that was very appealing to me, but then I’m a bit samurai obsessed. And the performances are nothing short of perfect, particularly Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada, two of my favorite actors. Watanabe can be a commanding and intense actor, but he is also capable of such humanity and gentleness. Why didn’t he win an Oscar for this? Sanada plays Ujio, a tough and suspicious samurai. He steals every scene, particularly toward the end of the film, when SPOILER he is fatally wounded. On the battlefield, he is quite the sight. His long hair is out of its topknop and blood is bubbling out of his mouth. But rather than accept defeat, he spits out the blood in defiance and, with katana raised, charges toward his enemy. It gives me gooseflesh just thinking about that sequence. He is one hardcore mother. Cruise demonstrates a fine range of emotions throughout the film, ranging from contempt to love, and he demonstrates again his athletic prowess during the battle scenes, which are exciting and heartbreaking. There are plenty of notable supporting performances, particularly by Shin Koyamada, who plays Nobutada; Koyuki, who is Taka; Timothy Spall as photographer Simon Graham, Masato Harada as Omura, and Sosuke Ikematsu as Taka’s son who takes an interest in Algren. The costumes by Ngila Dickson, who also designed for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, are brilliant as is the production design. (They shot the Japanese scenes in New Zealand.) Others worth mentioning include Hans Zimmer who creates a beautiful score, cinematographer John Toll who has lensed a gorgeous film, and Edward Zwick, who directs. As I said, I have seen a lot of Japanese samurai films, and I would put The Last Samurai up there with some of my all time favorites. 5 stars out of 5.