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Mission Impossible: Why Tom Cruise’s Brilliance is Underrated

Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible - Fallout.

Mission Impossible – Fallout is destroying the box office, and Tom Cruise’s star shines bright again, like it deservedly should. Even so, he is still wrongfully misunderstood by many.

Fallout has broken all the Mission Impossible (MI) franchise records. The second weekend after its release saw the film’s figures once again skyrocket, surpassing its predecessor Rogue Nation by dozens of millions, destroying all rival releases, and currently having a global haul of $329.4 million.

These fresh ‘rule the box office’ figures, coupled with unprecedented critical praise, re-solidify MI as a serious force to be reckoned with, while also putting Tom Cruise right back where he is most comfortable – at the very top of the Tinsel Town food chain.

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Tom Cruise in the incredible bike scene in Fallout. Source: Paramount.

It could be argued that even though Tom Cruise’s last several films have fared well – or great even – at the box office, his star hasn’t shone quite as bright for some time. Even with the decades-long success of his production company Cruise/Wagner Productions, and being prolific in film appearances, one could say that he has almost uniformly starred as the same character (with little exception) for ten years, and that the public’s fascination/detestation with his personal life, and Cruise’s many failed relationships, combined with his ruthless manner of defending himself against any slight that could damage his image, has contributed to making him a ‘take him or leave him’ type of film star.

Yet, taking an unbiased view, and just examining Cruise’s sheer breadth as an actor, it is assured he is far removed from the average film star. Tom Cruise is undoubtedly something else entirely.

For starters, he’s incredibly clever, and he knows when to pounce. This last MI film is a testament to this, and is just so good that it almost redefines action films – while also redefining Cruise’s career. It is not simply another ‘Tom Cruise film’ – it is a ground-breaking piece of cinema in many aspects, with script, cinematography and action/fight scenes beyond imagining, and has raised the genre’s bar up higher than ever before.

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Tom Cruise doing what he does best in Fallout. Source: Paramount.

Love him or hate him, you once again can’t deny Cruise’s talent, nor his uncanny ability to reinvent himself. His prolific, highly varied, myriad of characters through the decades are nothing short of astounding; and while he has definitely been in some bombs, he has had more than his fair share of commercial blockbusters. Not to mention his plethora of underrated films that frustratingly stay underrated. Why? Because he’s Tom Cruise, and Tom Cruise is a soft target for critics and film snobs alike. Why again? Because he dares to be different off-screen, he refuses to take shit, and it’s assured that Hollywood doesn’t like that brand of unapologetically different combined with hard-earned, blockbusteresque fame and fortune. It rankles them, and as a result he has had three Academy Award nominations, but has never brought home the golden statuette. (This says lots about the ‘Academy’ – and Hollywood in general, and why their opinions become less and less relevant year by year).

He is quite possibly the most famous and successful actor/filmmaker alive today, and Hollywood and the global press love to try and bring a star down – especially one of his stature. Yet Cruise is far more talented and resilient than the majority give him credit for, and a lesser man would’ve crumbled under the sheer weight of the public spotlight two decades ago. Cruise just ‘cruises’ on, and through all the tumultuous ups and downs of his life, he just keeps on doing what he does best – acting at the highest level.

An amazing ‘Cruise’ montage…

The Scientology thing is hard to understand, granted. The divorces – we get it, he’s a hard artist to live with. The whole ‘Please don’t make eye contact with Mr Cruise on set’ is totally bizarre. Yet, if you had one of the most recognizable faces on Earth, and couldn’t put your shoes on without someone taking a photo of it, how would you get through your day? Or in Cruise’s case, the last thirty-five years. (Yes, he has been a household name that long. He is currently fifty-six years old).

Put all the supposed off-screen weirdness aside, and let’s just think of this man as an entertainer – one of the very best. Forget the Days of Thunder and Top Gun (even though they have a solid place in movie history) and think about the extreme variation in extreme roles. Think about the intensity and unmatched magnetism this man brings to the screen. Think about the dedication he brings on set, then channels it into any given character. Think about the young, dyslexic boy that spent much of his childhood in poverty, with an abusive father; and think about what he has risen to become. He is simply one of the most remarkably pliable and charismatic stars in human history.

Not convinced? You don’t watch blockbusters? You only go arthouse or indie, and thumb your nose that anything that possibly be commercial, or even – god forbid – successful? If so, your loss – and that’s a silly way to think when it comes to cinema. Cruise didn’t get where he is by luck alone, and he has worked with Kubrick, Mann, and Spielberg (just for starters). These are things that anyone in film, in any capacity, can only dream of.

Going through his whole filmography in search of greatness would keep us here days, and so picking out a few of this journalist’s ‘underrated’ faves seems appropriate…

He was the evil, sociopathic – yet brilliant – hitman ‘Vincent’ in Michael Mann’s hugely underrated Collateral. He was the ultra-hilarious, uncredited Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder. The Axl Rose-inspired rockstar Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages (yes, and he also sang all songs himself), and he was the vampire Lestat in Interview with a Vampire (in our opinion, his best-ever performance). The list of underrated roles goes on and on – and are often conveniently forgotten; as is often the case with a celebrity who polarises the public like Cruise does.

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Tom Cruise as Vincent, Les Grossman, Stacee Jaxx and Lestat.

Yet who else has done anything like this? Who else has represented their craft at such a high level, and ironically is so underrated by so many in regard to their actual…craft? I can only think of one name, and that name is Tom Cruise.

A man’s personal life is his own, and Mr Cruise hasn’t hurt anyone that hasn’t tried to hurt him, and he donates millions to charity yearly.  How he does things are undoubtedly different, and his methods rub some the wrong way; but I don’t spew vitriol about Eric Clapton’s raging heroin addiction every time I hear his guitar wail. I don’t think about Mohammed Ali’s deep ties to religion when I watch footage of him boxing. Nor do I think about JFK’s infidelity when I re-hear one of his epic speeches. Just like I don’t think about Scientology when I’m watching Rain Man.

Give the man a break. Appreciate his capabilities. Forget the ‘couch jumping’ bollocks, the lawsuits, and the man’s personal life. Hire Born on the 4th of July, Minority Report or Risky Business today, open your mind to being an impartial witness to his many considerable talents. His mastery as an actor cannot be denied, no matter what your opinion is of him personally.

It’s great to see Tom Cruise on top of the very top again. With this, we hope to see him get back to being incredibly diverse roles once more – and not just the sci-fi/action guy that we have seen throughout the last decade. It’s always inspiring to see him step outside the normal, to put on fangs, don a fat-suit, or call a killer-pimp an “A-hole.”

What’s next? We know Top Gun: Maverick is coming soon (not incredibly excited about that), but how about a proper version of The Vampire Lestat? A Les Grossman standalone film? Or more of the rare ‘badguy’ roles like we saw in Collateral. We could only hope!

Mission Impossible – Fallout is currently showing in cinemas globally.

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