On an enigma – Calum Marsh in NYT:
‘Who is Tom Cruise? What is Tom Cruise? Why is Tom … Cruise?”
This is a tricky line of questioning.
Onscreen, Cruise is unmistakably our biggest movie star, as the New York Times reporter Nicole Sperling recently explained — the last true exponent of a century-old studio system that has been steadily eroded by the rising forces of franchise filmmaking and streaming. His powerful charisma and daredevil stunt work have combined, yet again, in his latest hit, “Top Gun: Maverick,”bringing it past the $1 billion mark.
Offscreen, Cruise is elusive. He is the frequent public mouthpiece for a cryptic, controversial religion that seems harder to understand the more he talks about it. He is intensely secretiveabout the details of his private life. Even when he makes the occasional effort to seem like an ordinary, relatable guy, he winds up sounding like an A.I. approximation of one. Asked by Moviebill magazine to describe his most memorable filmgoing experience, Cruise couldn’t name one. (“I love movies,” he said, very normally.) When asked which team he was rooting for at a Giants-Dodgers game he attended last fall, he replied, “I’m a fan of baseball.”’
‘But that’s just part of the story. One of the defining features of the last decade of his career is a level of quality control for which he himself is chiefly responsible. It’s not that he is incapable of making a bad movie: “The Mummy” (2017), Universal’s failed attempt to kick off an entire “Dark Universe” of big-budget creature features, made that clear. But recent Cruise films have in common a degree of ambition and enthusiasm that is rare in today’s blockbuster landscape, and when everything works, that effort pays off enormously. You will not see Cruise phoning in a performance. You get the sense that he treats every movie he does these days as if it were the most important one he has ever done.’
‘How could anyone have expected “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to a 35-year-old action movie with a rather cool critical reputation, to be not only far superior to the original film, but also one of the finest action films in many years? But then you read about Cruise’s dogged insistence on keeping everything as real as possible — demanding a minimum of computer-generated effects, forcing himself through arduous flight training, encouraging his co-stars to bear G-force speeds until they literally threw up. Some of Cruise’s co-stars over the years have characterized his obsessiveness as extreme to the point of what sounds like cinematic despotism, and it’s true that it would probably be easier, and cheaper, to do much of this in front of a green screen. But that’s not Cruise. When it comes to this stuff, he cares too much.’
‘But Cruise’s devotion to the movies runs deeper, if that’s possible. It’s a devotion to the Movies with a capital M. As A-list talent flocks to deep-pocketed streamers with blockbuster ambitions, Cruise has remained adamant that he will not make a movie for the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, refusing to negotiate on the possibility of a V.O.D. premiere for “Maverick” earlier in the pandemic. (“I make movies for the big screen,” he explained.) His interest in preserving that traditional cinematic experience shines through in the colossal scale of the productions themselves, so that when Cruise is looming over you in immense, Imax dimensions, he feels every bit as big as the image. It’s a reminder that so much of what we watch is tailored to the streaming era — a mass of “content” designed to play as well on a phone as on the big screen. For those of us who still care deeply about the cinema and fear for its future, Cruise’s efforts feel invaluable.’
‘Does anyone particularly care about the adventures of Ethan Hunt? (That’s the name of his character in “Mission: Impossible,” in case you forgot.) Hunt is just another name for the man we really care about: Cruise, plain and simple.’
‘Cruise the star burns as bright as any of his contemporaries, and far brighter than any who have come up since, in part because he continues to throw more and more of himself into his work and give up less and less of himself everywhere else. Who is he? You have to look to the movies to find out.’
Read the article here.
It’s somehow a relief, almost a comic relief, that for once we don’t read about a fallen star, drugs, booze, gambling, and maybe some violence. Finally, one is not succumbing to fame.
I’m not sure if I agree with the enthusiasm about the movies, I haven’t seen most of the movies that are being discussed in this article, I did see ‘Magnolia’ and I loved it, but I’m tempted finally to see a Mission Impossible. Don’t call me a snob. I just didn’t have the time.
Also, in times of social media, true secretiveness is sexy, at least as long as Tom Cruise is playing Kosinski’s gardener (Chance) in real life.
The insistence in doing all the stunts himself and forcing the other actors to go along with him is admirable, but also pure transgression. Transgression is of the essence, no art without it, not even a blockbuster without it.
That doesn’t mean that the artist should abuse fellow human beings.