We will all agree that, rarely, and only on very few and exceptional occasions, the passage of time is good for a human being. When we focus on the effects of age on actors who have focused their careers on a genre as physically demanding as action, things get much worse.
You only have to see any of the installments of the ‘The Mercenaries’ trilogy to realize that the clock does not forgive; Probably being Wesley Snipes and Dolph Lundgren —taking into account the age difference— the ones who best endure the type after accumulating years, filming, and the occasional injury behind their backs. Tom Cruise is a case apart.
With the sixth installment of ‘Mission Impossible’ already in our theaters, the idea comes to my mind that its leading actor seems like a kind of Benjamin Button to whom the springs, unlike his professional colleagues, seem to affect in a way reverse. A star that, to its 54 yearscontinues to measure up like the first day, and who we could qualify as the ultimate action hero.
Tom Cruise, synonymous with action
think of the name of Tom Cruisetakes me automatically, among all his filmography, to the fantastic aerial recital directed by Tony Scott in ‘Top Guns’. Associating the name of an actor with such a varied career, with essential titles among his peers, to a film of such a specific genre and characteristics, is the first symptom of many that confirm that Cruise is made for action.
Maverickhis character in the show marked by fighter jets, body oil, beach volleyball matches and an obvious homoerotic subtext —which we will talk about on another occasion—, was the starting signal for a career in which the Cruise’s more serious and elaborate roles, they have been left in the shadow of their good work when it comes to entertaining the public between shots, beatings and explosions.
Despite the memorable nature of his leading role in ‘Idols of the air’ —that’s how it was subtitled ‘Top Gun’ in our lands—, Cruise’s path as an action hero did not begin to take shape as the one we know today until he first got into the skin of the agent Ethan Hunt.
‘Mission Impossible’: The turning point
His work on the wonderful ‘Mission: Impossible’ by Brian De Palma constituted a before and after in the interpreter’s career, taking him for the first time behind the scenes acting as a producerand opening the doors of a franchise that, over two decades and five feature films, has ended up rising as his professional leitmotif.
The importance of the ‘Mission Impossible’ saga in Cruise’s career within the genre at hand is due, among other things, to having set the standard for the management of risk sequences by the actor. Self-confessed adrenaline addict, the New Yorker is characterized by dispensing —as far as possible— with doubles and specialists when facing the set pieces most terrifying for ordinary mortals.
For the memory there are moments capable of taking the most painted breath away, such as the climbing sequence that opens ‘Mission Impossible 2’, the ascent to the hotel Burj Khalifa of Dubai in ‘Ghost Protocol’ and, above all, the plane taking off in the impressive start of ‘Secret Nation’. Fragments worthy of framing in which the most absolute spectacular nature can only be overshadowed by the delivery of a Tom Cruise who seems to have been born to play the guy rolling.
The delivery of the hero
Cruise’s dedication, in addition to making his characters believable, and turning his performances into a recital that he seems to be enjoying at all times, transcends his acting work and is especially reflected in the projects in which he also participates as a producer.
It is in these cases when the protagonist of ‘Cocktail’ squeeze every last drop of its potential, getting involved in creative aspects such as the script, the design of the action scenes, or the choreography. In this way, he adapts the film to his skills on both sides of the camera, and achieves products of indisputable quality in which shine like the hollywood star that it is.
However, it is not at all necessary to refer to works such as the anthology ‘Mission Impossible’or the franchise that began with the stimulating ‘Jack Reacher’ —in which he also works as a multitasking producer— to glimpse that Cruise’s genius when it comes to shooting and breaking a few legs. A good example of this is his essential work on films like ‘The Edge of Tomorrow’ or ‘Minority Report’, which make it clear that, In addition to a great action hero, he is an excellent professional.
This fact becomes even more unquestionable when we focus our eyes on films of inferior film quality regarding those mentioned, as is the case of ‘Night and Day’, in which good old Tom shares the poster with Cameron Diaz. An empty entertainment without much to offer, which is saved from burning, and even entertains, thanks to a leading actor who the skin is left sequence after sequence and that, once again, he puts on his stunt boots during a sweeping motorcycle chase.
Killing machine, and acting
Freehand climbing mountains, mastering the use of firearms, piloting vehicles—watch out for the wild pursuit of ‘Jack Reacher’— and knowing how to throw a good punch are not, by any means, the only requirements to be a capable action hero. Beyond the physical background, it is required to have minimal acting skills, of which Mr. Cruise has more than enough.
Our favorite Scientologist—with permission from John Travolta— has in his history three well-deserved nominations for the oscars for his performances in ‘Born on the Fourth of July’‘Jerry Maguire’ and that genius of Paul Thomas Anderson titled ‘Magnolia’. Three examples that should by themselves close the mouths of the interpreter’s many detractors.
In case these three titles seem scarce, we can go to other titles such as ‘Collateral’ by Michael Mannwith Cruise unleashed in a rare, perfectly executed villainous role, ‘Oblivion’, ‘A Few Good Men’ and, of course, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. If having worked with Stanley Kubrick is not enough credit, God come down and see it.
An icon still in its early youth
Tom Cruise is an anomaly in the star system contemporary hollywood. A ultimate action hero that, between shots and shots, and risking the integrity of a face capable of selling films on its own, is capable of receiving awards and nominations, and of putting itself under the orders of the most influential directors of the contemporary film scene and, even, of the history.
A true icon within a particularly demanding industry, which, after half a century of life, does not need to be living a second youth, because it seems that the first has not ended. Hopefully we are right and can enjoy the eternal Tom Cruise for many more years; and if it’s with an assault rifle in his hands, and covered in a few bruises, all the better.
In Espinof | All the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies ranked from worst to best
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Neither Ethan Hunt nor Jack Reacher: the ultimate action hero is called Tom Cruise
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