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Archive for the ‘Tom Cruise’ Category

American Made

11 Oct

American Made – directed by Doug Liman. Biopicish. 115 minutes Color 2017.

★★★★★

The Story: A bored TWA pilot seeking loot and thrills in a CIA overthrow of a Central American country, finds himself up to his elbows in drugs, guns, and peril.
~
What makes the American Made protagonist, Barry Seals — a real-life gun-runner for the CIA — worth watching is partly the unlikelihood of his adventure and partly the narrative trick of Seals’ video-taping himself introducing each episode of it. But mainly the playing of Tom Cruise.

You watch and you wonder: how could anyone be so reckless as Barry Seals? And the answer is before you every instant. For Cruise makes Seals a man with absolutely no foresight, no ability to plan ahead, a man whose grasp of outcomes is wholly retarded. A character both brilliant and dim. It’s an astute choice.

This make Seals’ video-taping his adventures all the more touching, since, while the tapes might be used as evidence against his enemies, they would be impotent if Seals were dead. You can see this imprudence in Cruise’s slight accent and in his eyes, as he leaps towards and finesses all the pots of gold and the derring-do.

For what makes Cruise doubly watchable is that Seals is a king-of-the-mountain at what he does as a buccaneer drug and gun runner. No one does it better. And no one does such parts better than Tom Cruise.

In his first film, Taps, Tom Cruise was an unbilled extra on a close-order drill team. One of the leads had to leave the shoot. Cruise had played his drill-team cadet with such intention, practice, and concentration, they said, let’s try him. So Cruise got to play one of the leads, a fixated sharpshooter. Cadet or killer – the same devotion to the craft of acting and to the craft of the character.

A star was born. And rightly so.

For there is no actor on the screen today who enjoys acting more than Tom Cruise clearly does. The passion of professionalism he brings to his craft is the same signal quality of the expertise of the professionals he so brilliantly plays. A pool shark, a sports agent, a motivational speaker, a war activist, a super-detective, a Wall Street hotshot, a Courts Martial lawyer, a race car driver, a senator, a boxer. In each of these roles, the narrative depends on the character’s high professionalism. Each character does his work brilliantly, devotedly, obsessively.

Thus we see how an actor may use a single strand of his own nature to make a career.

For, despite his looks, we do not think of Tom Cruise as playing a husband, a family man, a great lover. His films do not generally show him in such roles. And the authenticity of American Made, although it includes such elements, does not depend upon them as narrative motives, but rather on the character’s dedication to and focused on the work at hand. As a businessman. Cruise’s Seals is a fool, as a husband cursory, and he is not quite sure how many children he has. But as a renegade pilot, he’s a whiz.

Cruise at 55 is the perfect age to play Seals at around 43, because, in order to stay an A-list actor, Cruise kept his figure – and his face, although a little beefy, sure looks the part in EXCU. Cruise has done his job as a star. And so Tom Cruise is the perfect producer of Tom Cruise pictures, which are pictures with great big fat parts for him. For they are vehicles for an actor who loves to act, and for us who love to see someone who does.

I don’t see all Tom Cruise pictures, for the subjects of them all may not draw me. And I have seen some that did not satisfy me. But in every one I have seen, he has given full value. And that’s because, at an early age, he fell in love with the work, and never fell out of it.

I wonder what will become of him as he enters his retirement years.

When you see him in as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder play a gut-fallen, cigar-chomping, bald, fat-fingered, Hollywood producer do a victory dance, it is evident that he has a natural gift for low comedy of character.

When you see him with Conan drive around London and you watch his responses and you see they are perfect let’s–go-with-it-improv-responses – having nothing to do with low comedy, but with the ability to arrange himself to open and exploit a comic situation which his doing these things brings into being – you see that he might perform tuxedo comedy, ala Cary Grant.

When you see him in the locker room scene desperately convince Cuba Gooding of something which Gooding can only end up laughing in his face about, you see that he is willing to make a jackass of himself, which is the necessary faculty the actor in comedy must arrive on the scene with pre-installed.

The failure of Hollywood to make mature comedy nowadays might mean that the talent to write them is atrophied. And all film depends on the writing. But wouldn’t it be entertaining to watch Cruise play out his career doing comedy? What would it be like if he had a partner, like Stan Laurel? Or doing character work, like this?

Behind the handsome/cute guy lies an actor of talent. Not all talents. But enough to keep me interested about what might come next.

Tom Cruise is American-made. Take him in. Let him take you in.

What’s coming next is, in fact, here right now: American Made. Catch it.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, BioDrama, Tom Cruise

 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

02 Aug

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Action-Adventure. 131 minutes Color 2015.

★★★★★

The Story: In this 5th of the series, the indestructible Ethan Hunt and his cronies take on a terrorist syndicate who kill world leaders.

~

Tom Cruise always gives good value. Starting out – Taps – he evinced a love of acting, a devotion to it, a reveling in it. Intensity was the result of this passion, and a release of vitality admirable to beholders. He is never lazy.

In the new Mission Impossible, intensity is somewhat taken over by the intensity of the perils which cascade all around him. And Cruise Vitality, like a star superseded by the understudy, has been supplanted by the Vitality Of The Special Effects.

But in the few “acting” scenes he has Cruise hits his targets. Of course, in films of high action, it is a general rule that the acting has to be quieter in order to let the action carry the excitement, fear, and focus. Action films require a great deal of standing still while the next catastrophe is being born and the audience acts it out for themselves.

Here the credibility of the action is also compromised by feats in which he is shown doing what could neither be done nor filmed as it is filmed if it could be done – Cruise hanging on to the outside door of an aircraft taking off, to start with. It may have been filmed in a wind tunnel, but one does not lend it credence in mid air. Once this abuse to our credulity is passed, though, tricks and trials zip before us before we even are us enough to catch them. Clever they are, perhaps, and they continue to the clever end.

All this is made palatable by the supporting cast of Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, and Rebecca Ferguson. They are delightful foils for him and for one another.

As to what they face, it is comparable to a cartoon in which the bulldog is flattened into a pancake by a steamroller. Every one leaps up into survival afterwards. Drownings, bullets, bombs, falls from altitudes – none of this leaves an impression on one because we know they have to survive it until the last reel is reached. Besides, they’re Special Effects: Movie Impossible. In the old Silents, the damsel on the railroad tracks was going to be rescued in the nick. The difference is that then, the oncoming engine was real.

Still we don’t mind. Our pleasure is lowered in each new version of these impossible escapes because each new version is numbed by the previous version. Cruise has physical strength, a certain wit, and good looks enough to outlast anything – just as we all want him to. He’s a good actor, here as elsewhere, and, as elsewhere, he knows the genre in which he works and plays well within its decorums.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, ACTION/ADVENTURE, Alec Baldwin, FOREIGN LANDS, Jeremy Renner, Tom Cruise

 

Minority Report

07 Mar

Minority Report – directed by Steven Spielberg. SciFi Action Adventure. A police chief gets caught up in the net he has set to catch murderers. 124 minutes Color 2002.
★★★★
Once again Spielberg fouls up the ending of a movie. Of all his films I have seen none have honest endings. Lincoln and Amistad have weak but workable endings, but all the other endings I have seen throw us into the boiling pot of hackwork. Is he sucking up to public sentiment? This is especially distressing since all that I have ever seen has been, up until then, work of strength, imagination, scenic power, and high craft.

In this case we have triple surprise endings to do the damage.

Now the difficulty with even one surprise ending is that we the audience feel betrayed and made fools of by it. Our trust in the narrative and the commitment we have invested in it are tossed out the window for a screwy twist. While the difficulty of any move is, having set the predicament, to find a way out of it, surprise endings pull the rug out from under, not just us, but the characters before us. Spielberg is a professional person; why doesn’t he know this?

Tom Cruise gives his all to this, over 2-hour, material, and his all amounts to a good deal. For no actor presently before us enjoys acting more, throws his will, and his energy so thoroughly into it as he. His complete investment is why we keep watching him, and he never disappoints.

The story concerns three zombie bodies who can foresee future crimes. And, as the principal talent among them, Samantha Morton is super. You thoroughly believe her half-drowned soul. The excellent Colin Farrell presents Cruise with a rivalry — a rivalry of cute guys, for one thing — but a rivalry set to prove Cruise’s crime prevention methods are flawed. Whatever is the reverse of effervescence would define Max von Sydow — gravitas incarnate; if he were any more grave he’d be in the grave. He is wonderful as the senior operative. But particularly brilliant and richly funny is — worth the entire price of admission — Lois Smith as the inventor of the crime prevention zombies. Her scene with Cruise is priceless. How did Spielberg’s people know to hire her?

The present film is fortified by Spielberg’s old reliables John Williams’ score, and it is filmed as usual by Janusz Kaminski so brilliantly, so beautifully, so imaginatively, that you feel the whole movie is taking place inside a cube of ice. The spectacular action sequences and special effects alone are worth watching the film for, for they are rare and strange and fun.

What a marvelous movie to collapse in on its own excessive final complications.

 

Rock Of Ages

16 Jun

Rock Of Ages – directed by Adam Shankman. Rock Musical. A launching pad of rock and roll legends is threatened with closure, as in it new stars arise and old ones rise higher. 123 minutes Color 2012.

★★★★

Rock and roll passed me by. I was too old for it at the time. So I know nothing of it. For this reason, I believe, I found this whole endeavor consistently entertaining from start to finish. The words to the songs are audible, mirabile dictu, which means that although they do lack distinction they do not lack distinctiveness. Everyone is good in it and everyone sings good, too. The young lovers give strong performances, as they must, for they really have to carry the picture. She jumps off the bus in L.A. from Oklahoma, and he is already bussing dishes in the venue where it mostly takes place. They come to one another’s rescue throughout, for this is a fairy tale set in The Palace Of Fame, or at least in one of the outbuildings of it, The Grange Of Celebrity, a grungier pleasance. The point of the piece is immediately established behind the credits, not as parody, but as serious comedy in which everyone is played not for comment but for real, with a funny inner hat. Starting with Paul Giamatti as the star-maker manager: his prevarication of the question, “Is it true?” is hilarious, both as played and as written; you must not omit to see it. But it is not just a question of particular scenes but of consistency and sustainment of tone that made me smile from the start to the finale. That glittering puma, Catherine Zetta-Jones as the righteous mayor’s wife who wants to shut down rock and roll forever struts her musical comedy chops with great humor and knowingness. As do Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin, the latter of whose humor is particularly telling as the superannuated hippy venue owner. The songs are energetic and the choreography is fortunate. There is a cast of hundreds. And into all of this saunters the always half nude figure of Tom Cruise as the rock and roll superstar pushing fifty – a sort of combination of Iggy Pop and Robert Newton, a walking Parnassus of Sex, his jewelled crown a codpiece of rubies, in an astonishing turn by an astonishing actor – who once again throws himself into a role hook, line, and sinker. He plays him as brain-damaged by fame. His joy in his craft is abounding. His actor’s imagination is unfathomable. For instance, his character’s seduction line is so used up that there is nothing further he can find to trade it in for, and he must repeat it, knowing it will succeed with any woman in question but not with himself. He makes his character a musical star so exalted that the view from his mountain top is wise beyond knowing, but perforce also hazy as to those who live so far below that he seems out to lunch, while the fact is that at all times he has already eaten lunch. It is a wonderful piece of work. He daringly develops this character into a full grotesque ,detail by detail; that is, his fingernails are painted aubergine and bitten to the quick, so that whenever we see his hands ten tiny eggplants flash before our eyes. Well, for all these wonderful actors, and because I like musicals, I smiled all the way through this one. See it in a theatre. It’s a big show. It doesn’t belong in your living room. You belong in its.

 
 
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