Today: April 16, 2024

Has Cruise Lost Control?

Almost five years after the release of the third film the fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, Ghost Protocol, is due to be realised this Friday. Many may have thought the series had ran its course after its limp and lifeless effort of Mission: Impossible III.

Almost five years after the release of the third film the fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, Ghost Protocol, is due to be realised this Friday. Many may have thought the series had ran its course after its limp and lifeless effort of Mission: Impossible III. However, a batch of good reviews and a strong viral campaign has seen Mission Impossible rejuvenated in the public’s interest. Featuring current favourites such as Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg it looks like Ghost Protocol will be a big box office hit over the Christmas holiday period. This is despite its main star being somewhat out of favour in the public eye. Tom Cruise, despite once being one of the most powerful stars in Hollywood, somehow finds himself as one of its more maligned figures. Despite his films still earning millions, how did Cruise’s star begin to fade?

On the surface it would still appear that Cruise is at the top of his game. However, if we take a look at his more recent offerings, it’s clear they aren’t the calibre we have accepted from him in the past. Knight and Day, Valkyrie and the latest Mission Impossible are not only fairly unremarkable films they seem to detriment Cruise’s talent. The three-time Oscar nominated actor seems to have fallen into the trap of complacency. Cruise knows what films he likes to be in: big, loud and expensive action films. But if you look back at his career the highlights don’t come from the action genre.

The Early Years

In Cruise’s early career audiences saw him starring in a selection of teen dramas ranging from gritty tales, such as The Outsiders, to enjoyable comedies like Risky Business. For the latter, Cruise can probably lay claim to making Ray Ban’s a must have ‘cool’ fashion accessory. It wasn’t until he starred in Top Gun in 1986 that he turned the proverbial corner and begun a meteoric rise to superstardom.

The Color of Money saw Cruise play an aspiring young pool player being mentored by the legendary Paul Newman. The film was a sequel to the 1961 classic, The Hustler, and saw Newman reprise the role of ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson. Whilst the film has a fantastic story and strong structure, the most remarkable thing was that Cruise held his own alongside the masterful Newman. Although Newman won an Oscar for his role and Cruise didn’t, The Colour of Money is probably the first instance that identified his huge potential.

From there on Cruise appeared in films with Hollywood heavyweights like Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) and Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men), and once again proved his worth. Not many actors at that age have been cast in such prominent supporting roles against acting royalty. Not even the likes of James Dean or Marlon Brando were granted as much faith. What made Cruise such an endearing prospect? Well, he was just pretty darn good. Only a handful of the actors that emerged from the Brat Pack group of the 80’s are now doing something that closely resembles work. For around three decades now Cruise has remained at the peak of the mountain. Unfortunately, he may not have acting credentials to thank for this.

Scientology and So Forth

Since the early 90s Tom Cruise has been an outspoken Scientologist. The controversial religion has recruited many celebrities over the years, but along with John Travolta, Cruise is amongst their most famous. Several incidents attributed to Scientology have been highlighted as peculiar instances in Cruises life. For example openly criticising other celebrities for use of medication (such as in the case Brooke Shields) and attempting to recruit others to the church have ended badly and often embarrassingly. There was also much dismay around silent birth practices of Scientologists highlighted by Holmes expecting her and Cruises first child. Many pictured Holmes straining in labour, mouth gagged, with Cruise condescendingly smiling down.

Then there was the Oprah incident. In 2005 Cruise appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, arguably one of the most watched TV shows in the world. Whilst talking about his new girlfriend, Katie Holmes, Cruise ecstatically announced his love for her by jumping up and down upon the sofa he was sitting on and generally behaving in an erratic manner. This bizarre moment became international news and ever since then has tarnished Cruise’s name. Were these actions genuine or a man desperately trying to keep a grip on his media spotlight?

The answer is maybe a bit of both. However, interestingly this never-before-seen side of Cruise coincided with him hiring his sister Lee Anne DeVette in 2004, who is also a committed scientologist, as his publicist. Simultaneously an unedited and possibly even exaggerated version of Cruise seemed to appear before our eyes. Perhaps the world simply wasn’t ready for the Cruise his friends and family know. After all, during this time Cruise had starred in some fantastic films, which should have cemented his place in Hollywood further. The likes of Collateral, Minority Report, Vanilla Sky, Jerry Maguire and Born on the Fourth of July, all saw him push his acting boundaries and he rightly picked up several Oscar nominations. And let’s not forget his great performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. Cruise played Frank T.J. Mackey, a self help guru plagued by his own personal demons. Magnolia showed just how good Tom Cruise can be. Whether he is presenting his visceral and over blown sermons or bleeding his heart out to his dying father, Cruise steals the show.

A Star Fading Fast

Since the ‘Oprah Incident’ and despite swiftly sacking his sister in 2005 and joining veteran publicist Paul Bloch, Cruise’s filmography has taken a dramatic slump. Although Cruise appeared in a number of blockbusters, none of his films have really taken off or gained critical acclaim. Only a hilarious cameo in Tropic Thunder has garnered any sort of real attention. And Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol doesn’t look like it’s going to alter the trend. Cruise seems happy in his place at the moment, yet he definitely resembles a man whose star is fading fast. Only his past glories and naivety are seemingly keeping him going. For him to be taken seriously once again Cruise needs to take a role akin to Magnolia or The Colour of Money and prove to the critic and his fans and, more importantly, himself that he is still a major star. Or could it just be like Jack Nicholson told him all those years ago ‘you can’t handle the truth!’

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