Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands. We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today. We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work. (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).
In reviewing Tom Cruise’s career, I’m going to have to divorce myself from a few things:
A. Tom Cruise’s personal mental stability
B. Tom Cruise’s personal views
C. Dumping Nicole Kidman, which-to this day-is one of the single-most mind boggling things that a person would do I’ve ever seen. I view that event like I do looking at cans of chewing tobacco in stores. “Why?….Just what the…..why?”
D. Oprah Couch Jumping.Yeah, let’s just palate cleanse the Tom Cruisiness of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (Tom Cruise was a wise alteration) by letting the best Tom Cruise impersonator there is, Ben Stiller, take it to the extreme.
It’s kind of amazing that we’re past 30 years of Tom Cruise in the movies. Granted, he started young (Taps is a really nice underrated film in which Cruise has his first major role) and he does project a force tsunami of youthful energy at you with most of his roles. Since he’s matured, he seems an ageless thirtysomething guy. I don’t know how he’ll age on film. I wonder if he’ll make the transition as gracefully as someone with whom he worked early in his career and who also had a lifetime career onscreen: Paul Newman. Cruise, who worked with Newman in The Color of Money (Newman’s only Oscar, which is another indicator of the worth of that statue) doesn’t have half Newman’s talent, but in terms of length of career, looks and charisma there are some parallels to be drawn.
Can Tom Cruise act? I think he can, but he does have a personality that allows him to really just be TOM CRUISE in a movie and skate by if he so chooses. There was a point in time where he seemed to be chasing an Oscar hardcore and was taking all kinds of chances (Interview with a Vampire and Eyes Wide Shut spring to mind) with his roles, but lately he’s settled down into action Tom Cruise mode and doesn’t seem inclined to shift at any point in the future. There are occasions when his personality has been blended with a character’s to the point where he gives a lot more layers than you typically see. His two best films, Jerry Maguire and A Few Good Men, both have Tom Cruise-like leading men, but also offer Cruise the opportunity to dig and give a little something more. I think Jerry Maguire should have won Best Picture and Cruise should have gotten his Oscar that year (this is The English Patient year….yeah, that year).
When Cruise tries to be NOT TOM CRUISE, the results can be extremely mixed. A lot of people liked his take on Lestat in Interview with a Vampire, but I wasn’t one of them. The Last Samurai is a really good movie, that should have been great, but Cruise was just miscast. The most successful and perhaps best acting job he’s turned in has been as the hitman Vincent in Michael Mann’s Collateral. That’s a performance where he managed to sublimate nearly all of the Cruise-isms that tend to dominate his roles and that movie is one of my favorites from his canon (Cruise had a great chemistry working off Jamie Foxx in that movie. The scene in the jazz club alone…riveting stuff).
Commercially, Cruise has found the most success in action films that make use of his underrated comedic talent (more on that in a bit). Top Gun, of course, is really the film that catapulted Cruise to superstar status and he hasn’t gone very long in his career without returning to the action adventure well.
The most successful of these have been the last two Mission Impossible films. The first MI is good. The second with John Woo…was not. But then JJ Abrams and Brad Bird both transitioned from TV and animation respectively to live-action cinema in the third and fourth installments and turned in two of the best pictures in that genre in the last 20 years.
Cruise’s last 10 films are…consistent. He’s a smart businessman. He rarely missteps in taking projects (though I bet he wishes he had the three years Eyes Wide Shut ate up out of his life back) and even if the film isn’t quite what it should be (Oblivion, for example), it’s still good. He’s an excellent craftsman and knows his strengths.
CRUISE’S LATEST TEN:
1. Oblivion (2013)……………………….7.50
2. Jack Reacher (2012)………………7.00
3. Rock of Ages (2012)………………4.00
4. MI: Ghost Protocol (2011)……9.75
5. Knight and Day (2010)…………..6.50
6. Valkyrie (2008)………………………..7.25
7. Tropic Thunder (2008)………….9.00
8. Lions for Lambs (2007)………….5.00
9. Mission Impossible III (2006)9.50
10. War of the Worlds (2005)….5.75
TOM CRUISE’S CURRENT AVERAGE: 7.125
Of these last ten, really only two show Cruise trying something new or attempting to stretch himself. Valkyrie didn’t come off as well as it should have given Bryan Singer’s talent behind the lens and the amazing true story on which it is based. A lot of that blame can be laid with Cruise. He just didn’t fit in the role.
The other instance of Cruise stretching is….no, stretching isn’t the right word. In Tropic Thunder, Cruise just takes his entire image and throws it out the window. He’s got a fat suit and a bald cap and just put everything out there as a profane, unbalanced studio executive. If Robert Downey Jr. hadn’t been in the same movie dropping one of the best comedic performances since Sellers in Strangelove, Cruise would have gotten a lot more attention for the effort, but he’s always showed outstanding timing with comedy in all his films.
His current average is exactly the same as George Clooney’s (though Clooney’s highs are definitely higher; he’s just suffering the math of having been in The Men Who Stare at Goats). With the exception of Rock of Ages (GENEROUS 4.0), a Cruise film in the last decade is a bankable 7/10. Rock of Ages is his fault for showing up. Lions for Lambs and War of the Worlds were below par films for great directors (Redford and Spielberg, repectively).
Over three decades, Cruise has amassed a very strong overall body of work. These are, in my opinion, his ten best films:
CRUISE’S GREATEST TEN
1. A Few Good Men (1992) ……………..10.00
2. Jerry Maguire (1996)…………………….10.00
3. MI: Ghost Protocol (2011)…………… 9.75
4. Collateral (2005)………………………………9.50
5. Mission Impossible III (2006)……….9.50
6. Tropic Thunder (2008)……………………9.00
7. Rain Man (1988)……………………………….9.00
8. Minority Report (2002)…………………..9.00
9. The Last Saumurai (2003)………………8.25
10. Magnolia (1999)……………………………..8.00
TOM CRUISE’S GREATEST AVERAGE: 9.200
2nd Highest for an Actor
Of the ten, we’ve talked about most already. Minority Report was a film I didn’t really like the first time I saw it, but subsequent viewings and the film’s prophetic futurism have increased my opinion of it vastly in the eleven years since its release. I don’t love Rain Man and I don’t like it for Tom Cruise. I’m not saying he was bad, but that’s Dustin Hoffman’s showcase. Magnolia is just a weird film. It’s by turns offputting and weird, but also wise and touching. Cruise’s character is certainly one of the most memorable. His interview scene (“I’m silently judging you.”) and his scenes with the late, great Jason Robards are amongst the best in his career.
Cruise is set for his next several films. In 2014, he’ll be starring alongside Emily Blunt in the SciFi adventure Edge of Tomorrow. From there it’s Mission Impossible 5 directed by Christopher McQuarrie (tentatively scheduled for 2015), and is attached to a Top Gun sequel (I don’t think this is really going to happen; Tony Scott was involved and talks have fizzled since his death); a Van Helsing reboot; and a sequel to Jack Reacher entitled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (many jokes to be made there for those who thought the first was dumb).
Tommy Map 4 (no, Tom Cruise is still better) is a Hollywood superstar who is still in his prime. He’s not taking chances like he perhaps should or stretching himself often enough. He is, however, delivering quality product most of the time. There’s really no such thing as a lazy Tom Cruise film. He’s so fricking vibrant that lazy is about the worst descriptor you could ever use to describe him. I’ll be interested to see how his career matures and what his ultimate legacy will be to film. I actually suspect that as he gets older, we may see Cruise’s talent displayed more deftly than we ever have yet. I think his best CAN still be yet to come and for someone who’s been making films since the early 1980’s, that’s pretty high praise.
- Paramount Developing Jack Reacher Sequel (celebnmusic247.com)
- Tom Cruise goes back to the future in the first trailer for ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (theverge.com)
- Mission: Impossible 5 chooses to accept Christmas 2015 release (theguardian.com)