Top ten performances of Tom Cruise

After being impressed with Cruise’s performance in Jack Reacher recently it got me thinking. Is Cruise one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood? He surely must be, given his output. Since his first credited role in Endless Love in 1981, I can only count seven instances in the last 31 years where he’s had more than a one-year break between jobs. Mostly he’s had at least one film out a year, 39 in total to date.

What’s most impressive is the range of films and quality of performances. I assume that’s why, for some people, he’s a divisive figure. A man at the top of his game and loving it. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to dispute his screen presence and charisma. Here’s my pick of his top ten performances:

  • lestat tom cruiseInterview with the Vampire – 1994
    Cruise wasn’t initially favoured by novelist Anne Rice, but won her and audiences over with his sublime, sadistic and graceful take on aristocratic vampire Lestat, constantly tormenting Brad Pitt’s troubled vampire Louis.
  • Vanilla Sky – 2001
    Described as ‘Jerry Maguire on an acid trip’ this sees Cruise play a publishing mogul who becomes facially disfigured following a car accident. What happens then is anyone’s guess as dream and reality blend together in Cameron Crowe’s twisted tale.
  • A Few Good Men – 1992
    Slugging it out with Jack Nicholson’s army general in a courtroom is no easy task. Cruise’s performance as idealistic navy lawyer was realistic and compelling, plus he gave us that iconic ‘you can’t handle the truth’ scene.
  • YouCompleteMe_JerryMaguireJerry Maguire – 1996
    Taking nothing away from the outstanding Zellweger, this film is anchored by Cruise’s raw, touching performance as sports agent Jerry, trying to rebuild a career and hang on to his marriage. A beautifully told, feel-good tale.
  • Minority Report – 2002
    Some may think this a Spielberg action tale, but it’s closer to a futuristic film noir. Cruise convincingly plays cop John Anderton whose life gets upended, accused of a crime and forced to clear his name whilst on the run.
  • Collateral – 2004
    Perhaps this was a nice warm up to play Reacher – here he played a cold, calculating and ruthless hitman, les-grossman-moviestuck in a cat-and-mouse game with Jamie Foxx’s average Joe-type cab driver.
  • Tropic Thunder – 2008
    With an ensemble cast of great comic actors, Cruise stands out as ruthless studio head Les Grossman – his tirades (I will massacre you!), his dancing, his menace. Fantastically funny and refreshing.
  • The Last Samurai – 2003
    As world-weary Captain Nathan Algren, his performance in Ed Zwick’s epic action tale is truly a masterclass in submitting wholeheartedly to the character. Compelling, heartfelt and affecting throughout.
  • Jack Reacher – 2012
    Ensuring the wrath of Lee Child fans worldwide, Cruise opted to play 6’5 man-mountain army detective Jack Reacher – a sort of modern Dirty Harry. Here he gives the character wit, intelligence and gravitas.
  • tom cruise Born on the Fourth of July 01Born on the Fourth of July – 1989
    Delivering arguably a career-best performance as wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Ron Kovich. This film came only a few years into his career ascendancy, but firmly cemented him as bona fide A-grade, talent.

Jack Reacher – Cruise brings the pain!

JACK REACHERThere’s been so much talk of Cruise not being tall enough to fulfil the role of Lee Child’s man mountain creation Reacher, that many have lost sight of the fact that he’s an incredibly versatile, dramatic action actor.

It’s no wonder Lee Child gave his seal of approval. Plus if we’re going to talk physical appearance – other than height – Cruise fits the bill. As well as being incredibly ripped (there’s a shirt off scene to prove it) he gets Reacher’s movement spot on. A hulking presence, hands loose, ready to fight – but able to talk his way out of situations if needed.

Cruise also brings an intensity and intelligence to Reacher, perhaps drawing on his ruthless hitman character from Collateral. Dialogue on Reacher’s part is kept sparse and concise, so you’ll be disappointed if you think you’re paying to see a breakneck action film with the dial ramped up to 110%. Mission Impossible this ain’t and that’s no bad thing.

One director, one shot
This largely due to Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie, whose past work includes The Usual Suspects, The Way of the Gun and Valkyrie. He’s also written the screenplay for forthcoming films The Wolverine and All You Need Is Kill, the latter starring Cruise.

McQuarrie’s films are intelligent and well scripted, often with great set pieces. His gun battles put you in mind of Michael Mann’s Heat in some respects. He’s primarily a writer, but his last directorial effort, The Way of the Gun starring Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe, was highly underrated. If you missed it, here’s the hilarious opening scene – not for kids!

JACK REACHERAnd so, back to the film. In terms of cast Cruise is amply – ahem – supported by Rosamund Pike’s lawyer, Helen, who mainly gets to react to most situations with wide-eyed surprise and a heaving busom. Sixty years ago that part would’ve gone to Marilyn Monroe! Perhaps I’m being unfair, Pike does well with what she has, but ultimately this is Cruise’s movie. That said, there’s a great addition of Robert Duvall in the third act. Bigger than a cameo and helps the plot along.

In terms of bad guys, McQuarrie’s choice of villain, Werner Herzog as shadowy gulag survivor The Zec, was an inspired one, if a tad underwritten. He has a suitably creepy introduction but goes a little downhill from there – his motivation for evil deeds perhaps not coming across as well as it could have done.

All in all though, McQuarrie and Cruise have confidently created a potential new action franchise. Reacher, a throwback to characters from 70s and 80s films, could perhaps be a breath of fresh air if done in a modern way. On the strength of this film, my guess is don’t be surprised if we see a sequel in the next few years. If McQuarrie stays on board – or a similar type of Director – then we’d be in for a treat.