Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

Mission Impossible III (2006) 2.69/5 (5)

 

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Rating: The Good – 72.1
Genre: Action
Duration: 126 mins
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Easily the better of the first two sequels, Mission Impossible III isn’t as much defined by its traditional set pieces as it is by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s über-villain. After retiring from the field to get married, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is drawn back into the fold when his protege is killed by the aforementioned nasty arms dealer who among other things is attempting to secure some kind of doomsday device. Picking up the ball after John Woo had somewhat fumbled it in MI:II, J.J. Abrams, fresh from his television successes with Alias and Lost, shows an intuitive touch in his handling of some modestly conceived but impressively staged set pieces. And though opening in perhaps too high a gear, the movie does eventually settle to the extent that a decent story plays out.

After a six year hiatus from the role, Cruise gives us the same enjoyable but watered down version of Ethan Hunt as he did in the first sequel. No doubt the movie could’ve used the cheeky verve of his cracking original turn but what he fails to provide, Seymour-Hoffman makes up for in spades. Not known for his roles in action thrillers, Seymour-Hoffman spits his wonderfully acidic dialogue at everyone and anyone who gets in his way right before he tortures them in some novel but psychologically cruel manner. He’s as thrilling a bad guy as you’ll find and a scene in which he wakes up in chains yet immediately turns the tables on his captors through sheer force of will is chilling to behold. The majority of the characters excluding Hunt’s new bride (Michelle Monaghan) and his sarcastic tech-specialist (Simon Pegg) are merely vessels through which the extended action sequences play out but so brisk is the pace Abrams sets, it won’t really be noticed.

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A Few Good Men (1992) 4/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76
Genre: Drama
Duration: 138 mins
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore

One of the most quoted movies in recent decades, Rob Reiner and Aaron Sorkin’s legal drama pits Tom Cruise’s talented young JAG Corps officer against Jack Nicholson’s tyrannical Marine Corps division commander. Cruise excels as the plucky lawyer faced with the task of defending two marines on trial for murder. However, this one will always be remembered for his co-star’s scenery-chewing turn as the defendants’ base commander and the man behind their illicit orders to “train” the soon-to-be victim. A host of top names fill out the rest of the bill with both Demi Moore and Kevin Pollak (as Cruiser’s legal team) playing more grounded roles than was typical of their careers at that point. Kevin Bacon is his usual safe pair of hands as the prosecutor while a nasty Kiefer Sutherland and the late great J.T. Walsh offer strong support as Nicholson’s underlings. Sorkin’s sharp script is best remembered for its relentless courtroom dialogue but it’s laced with subtleties that augment the drama from all angles. From its nods to the various character’s backgrounds to the unspoken enmity between the Marines and the Navy, they provide a rich subtext to the plot. From the director’s chair, Reiner generates a palpable tension and swift pace from the screenplay with much help from composer Marc Shaiman’s exciting score and, of course, his two leads. Though “Colonel Nathan Jessup” has probably gone down as Nicholson’s most famous role and though he certainly provides the lion’s share of the movie’s dramatic thump, it’s not the most nuanced piece of acting we’ve seen from the screen legend. Playing up to a caricature of his own celebrity, he never attempts to escape his “Big Jack” persona and is content to let his famous sneering delivery and scathing smile do most of the work. Not that it hurts the movie in the slightest but it seems a relevant footnote when discussing one of modern cinema’s most memorable characters.

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Days of Thunder (1990) 3.14/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Ugly – 67.4
Genre: Action, Sport
Duration: 107 mins
Director: Tony Scott
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall

Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer take the Top Gun formula and apply it to the racetrack in what turns out to be a surprisingly enjoyable piece of fluff. Tom Cruise top lines as the hot shot speedster laden with daddy issues who, after rocketing to stardom, develops a crisis of confidence after he barely survives a crash. It’s the Top Gun story right down to the grinning nemesis (Cary Elwes as opposed to Kilmer) but a tad less maudlin and with two special additions. First is presence of Robert Duvall, the seasoned mechanic who reluctantly takes the Cruiser under his wing. It’s his nous that lifts the entire drama by lacing the movie with grizzled sentiment and wise humour. Second is the drafting of Robert Towne to write the screenplay which gives the characters and their dialogue the kind of traction that rarely grace such hot air storytelling. Nicole Kidman offers strong support in an equally capable female role and though it resulted in one of modern Hollywood’s more atypical romances, she and Tom share a rather solid chemistry as the driver and his doctor girlfriend. In a nice twist on the intimidating rival trope, Michael Rooker scores terrifically as the older driver who, after being knocked off his pedestal by the cheeky Cruise, forms a tentative friendship with him – their wheelchair race alone makes this dramatic tangent worthwhile. As you’d expect from Scott, the driving sequences are wisecrack funneled and testosterone charged but thy’re shot and cut with a more coherent style than his films often exhibited. A suitably rousing rock anthem soundtrack wraps them up into neat little action package and though you may feel a tad guilty for falling for the director’s unabashed heavy handedness, you’ll find yourself amusingly entertained all the same.

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Jack Reacher (2012) 4.31/5 (8)

 

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Rating: The Good – 74.7
Genre: Thriller, Action
Duration: 130 mins
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall

When a sniper shoots six random people, a former crack investigator with the military police, Jack Reacher, begins chipping away at the District Attorney’s case and uncovers a wider conspiracy. Back in 2000, Christopher McQuarrie slipped into the director’s chair and comfortably exhaled the word “action” and, indeed, that’s exactly what his forte turned out to be. Action dripping with condensation rescued from overkill by a confident playfulness and pulsing with a similarly restrained tension. The perfect accompaniment for his trademark dialogue that, along with Tarantino’s, seemed to define the 90’s crime thriller.

His latest offering to this genre was the subject of much controversy during its development as word broke that Tom Cruise would take on the role of Lee Child’s much loved title character. The problem: Jack Reacher is 6’5″ tall in Child’s books and his physical presence is a defining feature of the fearsome detective. Cruise? Well, as one of Hollywood’s smallest A-listers, 6’5″ is more than a (err..) stretch. However, despite the hesitation on the fans’ part, the movie succeeds as one of this century’s better action thrillers. Sure, it lacks the intimidating presence of Child’s Reacher but Cruise is more than solid in a less distinct formulation of the character and to make up the difference, McQuarrie surrounds him with a highly capable and charismatic cast. Rosamund Pike is equally watchable as the attorney representing the police’s prime suspect, Robert Duvall pops up in an interesting extended cameo as an wily ex-marine sharpshooter, and Werner Herzog, of all people, turns in one of the more bizarre movie villains in recent years. Best of all, however, is Jai Courtney as his right-hand man with a killer charm.

While the set pieces are ably handled, not to mention defined by a refreshing degree of live action stunt work, in a nice twist on the modern blockbuster, it’s the plot that drives this movie as McQuarrie picks the best elements of the original story and juices it up with his edgy yet humorous dialogue. That goes for every character except Herzog’s who is given one lame line after another to struggle with. There’s no doubt that casting a more beast like actor in the lead role would’ve added the much absent menace to this movie’s narrative but, in the end, McQuarrie and Cruise deliver an eminently worthy action flick. Jack Reacher won’t leave you bowled over but you’ll more than likely find yourself substantially entertained.

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Guilty Pleasures

Oblivion (2013) 3.5/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Ugly – 66.1
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 124 mins
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough

Take Moon, 2001, Omega Man, Silent Running, The Matrix, Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, Star Wars, and practically any other science fiction movie of the last 50 years, mix and match their plot points, add a bold yet rather pretty score and you get Oblivion. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough play a couple of technicians entrusted to maintain the drones and water harvesters of a post-apocalyptic Earth so that the remnants of the human race can build a new life on the moon Titan. When the Cruiser happens across (literally) the woman from his dreams one day, he begins to suspect that all is not what it seems with his life and incurs the wrath of who or whatever has been issuing him his orders these last few years. To accuse Joseph Kosinski’s movie or his own graphic novel that it’s based on of being derivative is kind of redundant for so overt is the derivation that, structurally, it seems more akin to an exhaustive homage to the great science fiction of cinema. That it doesn’t function like a homage but a strange exercise in script construction is where the problem lies. So familiar are all the elements to the plot and premise that those source movies veritably intrude on Oblivion’s own attempt at a narrative to the point that we find ourselves struggling to feel engaged. Kosinski has certainly made a beautiful looking film though, a crisp fusion of old school cinematography and CGI punctuated with wide angle moments of grandeur worthy of the writer-director’s overall ambition. But while Riseborough manages to make her character work with a wonderfully creepy turn as Cruise’s paramour, the antiseptic nature of his character gives him little room to shine. Thus, we miss the presence he normally brings to his movies leaving Oblivion a rather cold movie to behold. For sci-fi fans, there’s much in the way of interest here but just noting to get our teeth into.

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Jerry Maguire (1996) 4.29/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76.1
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Duration: 139 mins
Director: Cameron Crowe
Stars: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger

Cameron Crowe’s finely pitched romantic comedy has all the hallmarks of the best romantic drama with a healthy dollop of cynicism to keep it honest. Tom Cruise is the sports agent who, after a late night epiphany, turns his back on his once ruthless, heartless, and client churning approach to his career and commits himself to a more personal form of sporting representation. The only problem is the line of colleagues waiting to plunge their knives into his back and his soon to be former clients who’ve been well indoctrinated into the industry’s superficiality. Left with nobody but an enamoured secretary at his former company (Renée Zellwegger) and an embittered but charismatic football player desperate for the contract he feels he deserves (Cuba Gooding Jr.), he strives to build a new business while reconciling the feelings he develops for former and maintaining his turbulent relationship with the latter.

Nearly 20 years after its release, Jerry Maguire remains as fresh and endearing as it was in the 90’s as Crowe approaches things with an energy and fun that gets the best out of his cast and acerbic script alike. The riffs resonate amusingly, the dialogue pops, and the very real personal drama bubbles just under the comedic surface so that the movie avoids succumbing to the palpable angst of Cruise’s central dilemma. Only once or twice does it threaten to do so but Cameron and his cast always pull it back. Cruise has rarely been better morphing seamlessly from the confident, shark-toothed grin of successful agent to the sweaty self doubt of a man struggling to find himself. Zellwegger charms the audience with her rather original portrayal of the needy but admirable single mother while Gooding Jr., in his Oscar winning turn, is simply a force of nature. There’s a vulnerable defiance to his all encompassing presence which makes him much more than just a football jock looking for a contract and it’s around him that much of the film derives its energy. Whether or not the whole thing becomes too thick with sentiment will come down to one’s tolerance of light hearted emotional drama but there’s enough truth and real life sprinkled about the script and its delivery to capture most of us without a fight.

 

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Live Die Repeat (2014) 3.21/5 (6)

 

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Rating: The Good – 80.5
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 113 mins
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

After decades of waiting for an action sci-fi that can match those of the late 80’s and early 90’s in class and smarts, Doug Liman, Christopher McQuarrie, and Tom Cruise have come up with the goods. Set during a future war for the planet against a horde of prescient aliens, the Cruiser headlines as a cowardly press officer who is railroaded into the infantry on the eve of humanity’s attempt at a D-Day style liberation of Europe. However, during the battle he gets killed and caught in a time loop that sees him re-live the same day over and over again which allows him to hone his initially hapless skills and, at the same time, avoid the pitfalls of the previous day.

The concept which inspired Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s graphic novel All You Need is Kill (brilliantly adapted as “Live, Die, Repeat” before some drone snatched “Edge of Tomorrow” off a low shelf) may have been the classic video game scenario, but Liman adds so much more polish and depth to the concept that, as with Groundhog Day, Cruise’s most wearing and touching battle is his fruitless and unending dance with time. However, that Liman merely tantalises us with this heaviness only to constantly kickstart the scenario with energetic optimism is his masterstroke. Thus, the danger with the Groundhog premise, namely repetition boredom, isn’t as much sidestepped here as it is leapfrogged…. in a funnel of brilliantly edited, pulsating action! They even make the mechanised exoskeleton (which everyone from James Cameron to Neill Blomkamp has failed to actualise) look cool while also making it work for the script.

Cruise is to be commended for playing such an unflattering character with real gusto and whether it be tapping the humour, hopelessness, and/or heroism of his circumstances, he makes for a smashing lead. As his comrade in day-tripping, Emily Blunt is equally strong in an admirably feminine way and watching the pair burst their way off the beaches of Normandy in a whirlwind of mechanised alien fighting (along to Christophe Beck’s muscular score) is just spine-tingling.

McQuarrie, Jezz and John-Henry Butterworth deserve their fair share of credit too for delivering the freshest but most purposeful screenplay the genre has seen in quite some time but it’s Liman’s mastery of time-playing that deserves most respect. A coalescence of shot composition, alternate camera angles, and editing tempo that propels the plot forward in a series of groundhog-esque transitions. So good is this part of the movie, that the scenes in which a more traditional narrative is employed suffer immensely by comparison and even begin to drag. The relative facelessness of the aliens becomes more obvious at these points too alerting us to the fact that this is one area where Live Die Repeat (the original title has thankfully been restored for home-market release) fails to live up to the classics of the genre and is more in tune with today’s more generic movie evil. In the long run, however, these issues are eminently forgivable because the rest of this movie is such an irresistible blast from the past that it’s as likely to stand the test of time. Do Not Miss!

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) 3.29/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Good – 68.4
Genre: Action
Duration: 133 mins
Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg

Tom Cruise takes charge of his IMF team on its fourth cinematic outing and despite its watery plot, there’s enough thrills and cleverly worked out set pieces to justify its existence. Joined by Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton as he tracks down a “nuclear terrorist” bent on destroying most of the world, this adventure whisks us around the near east from Moscow to Dubai to India in one breathless sequence after another. Brad Bird’s installment isn’t going to incur much in the way of second or third viewings but the cast are just engaging enough to compensate for yet another generic bad guy and over-familiar plot. One would think the impossible mission scenario would offer a variety of jeopardising circumstances and, to be fair, such is the tradition since De Palma’s original big screen adaptation (and before). However, the plot to this one was grabbed straight off the shelf marked “Stock Plot: 21st Century Action Movie”. What’s even more unforgivable is that despite the franchise’s history of wonderfully colourful and nefarious bad guys – from John Voight’s reptilian traitor to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s terrifying arms dealer – writers Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec serve up an even blander villain. Ultimately that, even more than the story, is the great let down here. Thankfully, a back to form Cruiser is on hand to elevate things and his scaling of the world’s tallest building not to mention the accompanying caper set inside it is a peach.

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Mission Impossible (1996) 4.04/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76.4
Genre: Action
Duration: 110 mins
Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart

IMF secret agent Ethan Hunt, is forced to turn rogue when his operation is blown from the inside and his team is killed. Hunting for the mole who set him up, he recruits a new team of equally disavowed spies and begins to put a complicated plan into action. This original movie adaptation of the popular television show has all the hallmarks of the source material but with the added style of Brian De Palma who demonstrated yet again that his genius for set-pieces applied just as much to the action genre as it did to thrillers and horror. Mission Impossible is an accomplished action movie in nearly other every respect too from the charismatic acting to the hip script underlying it. Tom Cruise is in top form as Hunt, Jon Voight’s presence is used well in the role of Hunt’s mentor, and a host of other familiar names contribute in equally well suited roles.

Of course, the star of the show is De Palma who while subduing his innate signature style somewhat, still manages to craft one of the more distinctive action movies of the 1990’s. The sequels were all directed by action heavy weights but none of them seemed to understand (or appreciate) the TV show to the same degree as he did and so their movies, while fine, were merely just action vehicles. The action present in De Palma’s Mission Impossible was defined by the concept of the television series and so it had an appropriate, distinctive, and recognisable personality. Indeed it’s worth noting that this signature style, built around intelligent brain-over-brawn set-pieces, laid the groundwork for the type of action movie that was to dominate US action cinema during the 2000’s and thus it signified an important break from the formula which defined the action movies of the late 1980’s and early 90’s.

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The Firm 1

The Firm (1993)

 

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Rating: The Good – 67.5
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 154 mins
Director: Sydney Pollack
Stars: Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ed Harris

Star studded legal thriller with a still fresh faced Tom Cruise as the brash young attorney whose dream job at a Memphis law firm turns into a nightmare when he discovers they’re a front for the Mafia. Throw in a meddling FBI and a largely unseen Chicago mobster and the scene is set for some old school thrills and a nice spot of running for the always eager Cruiser. As usual for a John Grisham adaptation, an array of cracking characters lie at the base to this movie played by no one but the cream. Hal Holbrook, Holly Hunter, Wildord Brimely, David Strathairn, Ed Harris, Gary Busey, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Paul Sorvino are all in top form while Cruise puts in a strong shift as he was, at the time, just emerging from the shadow of his late 80’s “pretty face” status. However, it’s Gene Hackman as Cruise’s incorrigible yet charming mentor who steals the show. The movie comes alive the moment he shows up and he adds much needed droll to the otherwise stiff suited side to the movie. As as you’d expect from the man behind some of the great 70’s thrillers, Sydney Pollack ratchets up the tension and strikes a relatively even balance with the personal drama even if he could do nothing for the Cruise-Tripplehorn mismatch as husband and wife! He does however manage to keep his audience distracted from the story’s sometimes ludicrous plot developments – a useful skill for a Grisham thriller! John Seale’s photography gives Memphis an intriguingly inviting yet obscure quality which actually complements the conspiratorial tone of the movie while not alienating the mainstream audience. Ditto Robert Towne, David Raybe, and David Rayfiel’s screenplay. It’s just a shame that Dave Grusin’s score couldn’t do the same as it bounces buoyantly among the octaves, too often oblivious to the cadences of the script. The whole thing runs about 35 minutes too long but it’s worth hanging in there if only to see Tom use his briefcase to beat seven shades of crap out of Brimely’s slightly ridiculous but eminently enjoyably bag man.

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The Outsiders (1983) 3.14/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Good – 64.3
Genre:Drama, Crime
Duration: 91 mins
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Stars: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise

Francis Ford Coppola’s uneven adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders features a host of household names albeit before they hit their prime. Matt Dillon, Estevez, Swayze, Lowe, Macchio, Howell, and Cruise play the “Greasers” from the wrong side of the tracks who are locked in class warfare with the wealthier more privileged “Socs”. The intentions were right and there are some nice glimpses of the great Coppola (check out those Godfather-like close-ups of Estevez’ feet changing direction and pace to indicate danger) but they are all too fleeting as this film runs away from him and its two main leads (Howell and Macchio) towards the end of second act. Worth sticking with it for the great rumble scene at the end though.

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Collateral (2004) 3.52/5 (3)

 

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Rating: The Good – 71.4
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Duration: 120 mins
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

An L.A. cab driver (Jamie Foxx) unwittingly picks up hired killer (Tom Cruise) who forces him to drive him from one hit to another through the course of the night. Perhaps Michael Mann’s most mainstream film, many were quick to praise Collateral as one of his best on its release for its remarkable photography, outstanding action, and a top cast. However, unlike much, if not all of his previous work, there are some glaring weaknesses. This was his first directorial project that he didn’t write himself and it shows as his typical ultra-real dialogue is mostly replaced by a lot of undisciplined melodrama. The story gets downright ludicrous towards the end and some of the action requires a major suspension of disbelief. Mann himself is particularly indulgent in his use of music in both his build-up to an excellently staged nightclub shootout and a particularly awful Audioslave intermission (that latter obsession unfortunately carried over into his next feature Miami Vice). That said, Collateral remains as slick-looking a film as you’ll see and was a great advertisement for digital video. Shot entirely on DV, Mann makes startlingly use of that medium’s ability to capture lowly lit exteriors both up close and especially from distance. The result: a night-time L.A. like we’ve never seen it. The actors are all on top form. Cruise has rarely been more interesting, Foxx is highly relatable as the every-man cabby, and Mark Ruffalo scores well as the undercover cop on their trail.  If you can suspend your disbelief during the last 15 minutes, you’ve got a solid thriller.

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