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movies / June 23, 2010

MCDKNAN FE004

I’ve hated Tom Cruise for twenty-five years now. It’s been one of my favorite traditions, hating Tom Cruise. It involved refusing to go to his biggest blockbusters like Top Gun, then occasionally, foolishly succumbing to the temptation to see just how awful he really was in one of his many, many hit films. Say, War of the Worlds, when he completely bolloxed up his role as a blue-collar dad. (Don’t tell me about blue-collar dads, Tom “Rich Putz” Cruise. I know blue-collar dads, and you, sir, are no blue-collar dad, and have no clue how to play one. Blue-collar dads don’t swank around with spa-fresh skins and gym-toned bods, wearing hoodies under down jackets just to prove they work for a living.)

But as satisfying as all that was, I had to rethink it after I saw Tropic Thunder, in which he gave that magnificent comic performance as Les Grossman. You could hardly tell it was Tom Cruise under all the prosthetics and padding, and it made me consider the possibility that it’s really Cruise’s face that I hate, and this prejudice has made me ignore his genuine talent. (Though I’ve always kinda hated his voice too. I’ve never gotten over the way he delivered that Mission: Impossible line, “You’ve never seen me angry,” in the shrill voice of an enraged chipmunk. But then, I’m a big fan of deep voices. I wish everyone in movies talked like Lee Marvin, or could at least manage Lauren Bacall.)

les-grossman-tom-cruise

Which is why I went to see Knight and Day, in order to be fair to Tom Cruise, and keep an open mind and all that. It meant putting up with Cameron Diaz too, of course, with her ditsy-goldfish face, now getting a bit haggard. But I figured I could grit my teeth and bear it and try to forget the horror of seeing the Cruise-Cameron pairing in Vanilla Sky. (Shudder.)

Knight and Day is one of those light thrillers, like Charade if you’ve ever seen it, in which a romantic comedy is enacted amidst jet-setting international intrigue and danger and whizzing bullets that have no power to hurt the stars of the show. When they produce these films nowadays, the action gets amped up a good deal, which makes the whizzing-bullets scenes considerably more ludicrous, and suspending disbelief requires a bit more heavy-lifting. In Charade, the villains are mean Walter Matthau and sinister James Coburn with pistols, plus a few other jokers who can’t put a dent in Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

charde-poster-today

But in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Undercover Blues and Killers and Knight and Day and things like that, it’s teams of professional assassins armed with huge high-tech weaponry practically carpet-bombing the place, and still the lead couple goes quipping and bickering through it all.

Even if you like this kind of thing, you still have to be in the right mood for it. If you don’t like this kind of thing, you don’t need me to tell you to stay far, far away.

I was prepared to take it and like it. I had my amused, tolerant face on.

Tom Cruise is introduced in this film with a close-up locked on the back of his head, as he scans the crowd in an airport. This type of shot is a tribute to great stars, who are so familiar to us that we even recognize the backs of their heads and are happy to stare at their hair-covered craniums for a full half-minute of screen time. In other words, there’s no point lingering on the back of, say, Ryan Philippe’s head. No one will know who the hell it is or why we should care.

Alfred Hitchcock used just such a shot to intro Cary Grant in Notorious—nobody ever had a more unique, gleaming, perfectly groomed back-of-head than Cary Grant—and Akira Kurosawa similarly honored Toshiro Mifune in the stupendous opening shot of Yojimbo.

ayoj1b

I resented seeing this particularly epic Star Shot granted to Cruise, the little wanker. But did I recognize every detail of his stupidly feathered haircut and stiff-necked, self-satisfied manner? I did. He’s been a big star so long, it can’t be avoided.

The whole movie is an homage to Cruise’s stardom, in which he good-naturedly spoofs his own maniacally upbeat, can-do action hero persona. It’s a pretty shrewd move in trying to recover public goodwill, reminding people why they liked him in the first place. As you recall, everyone decided to despise Tom Cruise a few years ago—and I was right there to welcome them to the club with open arms and say “I told you so”—when he took over the handling of his own PR and promptly revealed himself to be a fanatic Scientologist, couch-jumper, and all-around prat. (Note to celebrities: never fire your PR person who’s succeeded in hiding who you truly are. You need that PR person desperately.)

It’s been damage-control ever since, and the Les Grossman performance, reprised at the Grammy Awards ceremony to great applause, did wonders for him. There’s rumored to be a comedy in the works focused on Les G.

Until then, Knight and Day is designed to keep the pro-Cruise momentum going.

Knight-and-day

It’ll probably work pretty well. Cruise does Cruise as a grinning freakish fellow in bizarrely perfect physical condition—we get the jaw-dropping shot of his ripped torso, never fear—who was literally an Eagle Scout in his youth. (Close-up of a photo of the real Tom Cruise as a toothy teenager, dressed as an Eagle Scout? Check.) He grew up to be a top CIA super-agent with the alias Roy Miller, and is completely at home in a hail of enemy fire, never more cheerful than when reassuring a civilian he’s just shot that he aimed the bullet “through and through” and that the wounded man will sustain no lasting damage.

For a fantasy figure, this is kind of appealing. Cruise adds a nice, insane flourish by getting his feelings hurt when June Havens (Cameron Diaz) doesn’t immediately trust him, though he’s constantly killing people all around her and making up cover stories and drugging her so he can transport her to safety with less hassle. In his own mind, see, he’s still an Eagle Scout, earnestly doing good deeds, so why does she keep running away? You can imagine some pious, patriotic Mormon CIA spook up to his armpits in violence and corruption acting a lot like that.

As long as the movie sustains this air of jolly pathology, it’s pretty entertaining. But that’s only for about half the scenes. All the rest is the struggle to find somewhere to go with this premise. That’s how Cruise and Diaz wind up on a motorcycle in Spain just ahead of the running of the bulls, and Diaz suddenly turns into a superhero herself for no good reason, stunting and shooting like a pro. Screenwriter Patrick O’Neill has planted the obligatory information about her character early on—June is some kind of car expert, following in her dad’s footsteps, so we know that later on she’ll do a lot of fancy driving in high-speed chase scenes. She dreams of a leading an adventurous life, and in movies like this, there’s never much difference between dreaming and doing. Tiresome, but there aren’t supposed to be any real surprises here.

108461_cameron-diaz-points-two-guns-behind-tom-cruises-head-as-they-film-knight-and-day-in-seville-spain-on-december-9-2009

Also on hand are some rote, unmemorable villains and a geeky young scientist played by Paul Dano, who’s invented the whatzit that everybody’s stealing and hiding and gunning for. Standard stuff.

But for the genre film fan there’s always plenty to think about while the more unfortunate scenes roll by. Like how director James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) negotiates the height difference between Cruise (small) and Diaz (tall), sometimes pretending that Cruise is all fine with being several inches shorter than his leading lady and letting the co-stars stand together on level ground…

Cameron-Diaz-and-Tom-Cruise-Knight-Day

…and other times opting for the traditional methods of putting Cruise on an apple-box or Diaz in a ditch or something.

knight_and_day_set_photo_tom_cruise_cameron_diaz_01

You can also pass the time wondering how many stunts Cruise will claim to have done himself (all of ‘em) and how many Diaz will claim (only some). It must be pretty funny being a stunt person on these films; I wonder if they have to sign a strict confidentiality agreement and pretend they don’t exist? After all, CGI takes care of a lot of the action anyway.

In the end I decided I still hate Tom Cruise on general principles, but I grant him the Les Grossman Exception and leave it at that.

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47 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. platitudes  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I was stoned out of my mind when I watched Cocktail and am still traumatized by it. What part of that movie was supposed to be believable????

  • 2. macguff  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    wow, cameron diaz looks disgusting… never really hot, but shit she’s hit the wall

  • 3. mick  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    If you want to see Tom Cruise act, rent Magnolia. I was spellbound for 3 hours and then it started raining frogs and I knew why I’d never heard of the movie or Tom’s fine performance. What a mindfuck! He was brilliant, Eileen, admit it.

  • 4. mr. mike  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    “I was stoned out of my mind when I watched Cocktail and am still traumatized by it. What part of that movie was supposed to be believable????” – platitudes

    None of it; Cruise’s movies post “Risky Business”* are all about combining filmic “plot logic” with filmic “visual logic” even though neither of those (if you amp them to 11 like Cruise does) are stricly believable. So you have Cruise flying an F-14 in an inverted dive to flip off a MiG pilot, hanging on a bungee cord off a helicopter while trying to grab on to a French bullet train, etc. Cruise is more of a special effect than he is an actor.

    _______________________________

    * Yes, that movie had a load of holes, but it lacked all the special effects and stuntwork of the later Cruise films.

  • 5. RecoverylessRecovery  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Tom Cruise is to acting what Adolf Hitler was to portrait painting.

    He’s basically got TWO facial expressions;
    ‘cute’ & smiling or ‘cute’ & NOT smiling. He makes Kevin Costner look like Gene Hackman. Plus he’s nuttier than a PAYDAY Peanut Caramel Bar. What a douche.

    Johnny Depp; now THAT’S an actor! And the fact that America disgusts him so much that he chooses to live in France instead only ELEVATES my admiration for him.

    (We now return you to your regularly-programmed economic collapse. There will be no further commercial interruptions.)

  • 6. aUPfinn  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    NPR spent ten minutes of my day talking about this useless punk on my way to work this morning; welcome to Disneyland.

  • 7. Rick  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    She hit 37 … doing 60!

  • 8. Johnny D.  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Fuck you, haters – you don’t have to live with him.

    Tom Cruise’s stuff is pretty good. I, too, couldn’t stand his dipshit smirk but I try to appreciate his movies for the rides that they are. I am not too cool for Vanilla Sky and so jaded I couldn’t dig Collateral. War of the Worlds as an American version of the civilian evacuation of Baghdad was also a nice, luke-warm way to pass a couple of hours.

    Depp and Oldman are better actors, undeniably, but Bruce Willis only does one thing and Cruise does, maybe 1.25 things. Perhaps he’s a queer and he’s definitely a lunatic but try to watch one of his movies without a tiny Perez Hilton on your shoulder.

    I mean, Christ, people….

    [i]Tom puts his penis in my vagina. We have sex.[/i]

    Johnny D.

  • 9. mydick  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Christ, is Eileen the only person who still writes for this fucking website?

  • 10. Stephen K.  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Prat? Bolloxed? Wanker?

  • 11. blargh  |  June 24th, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Yup, exile is now just a movie review site.

  • 12. Moe Dirt  |  June 24th, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I’m not a big fan of Cruise either but I did enjoy his Japeneese version of Dances With Wolves…The Last Samuri.

  • 13. A-Lex  |  June 24th, 2010 at 1:38 am

    >>Christ, is Eileen the only person who still writes for this fucking website?

    Dead on, man. There’s a whole fucking civil war complete with ethnic cleansing unfolding right now in Kyrgizia. Where the hell is War Nerd? This is the stuff he should be drooling over — village storms, heavy armour vs. barricades, mass arsons, knives, mob killings and rape. All this in the direct vicinity of Afghanistan, and all around the Manas airbase that serves as an airlift facility for the U.S. and Coalition forces.

    (See photo report from Kyrgizia here, and videos here. The text is in Russian though.)

  • 14. rothko  |  June 24th, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Whoever the hell said watch Magnolia – fuck you. That’s the worst film of all time, real talk.

  • 15. Connors  |  June 24th, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Hated Les Grossman. Magnolia was seriously overrated, too. The only halfway decent Tom Cruise movie I can think of is Vanilla Sky.

  • 16. TheStrawMan  |  June 24th, 2010 at 7:36 am

    She’s from New Zealand

  • 17. Plamen petkov  |  June 24th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    bet the War Nerd had a heart attack a few years ago and we were never told.
    So now the Exiled is reduced to running articles on easy targets such as Tom Cruise. Yeawn.
    But on the MUCH brighter side, the sideline photo of the guy peeing against the line of riot police made it (almost) worth it. Great shot.

  • 18. CapnMarvel  |  June 24th, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I like Risky Business. Great old-school teen hijinks fare with Rebecca DeMornay initiating my first pre-pubescent stirrings of lust.

    The rest of Cruise’s body of work is horrific. Terrible after terrible after terrible. ‘Born on the 4th of July’ was potentially a good biopic and could’ve been a much different picture with a less fame-obsessed director, better screenplay, and less despicable actor in the lead role (Willem Dafoe, maybe?). Grossman was OK, but only because we had, like 8 minutes of screen time with the guy and half of that was spent goggling at the fact that it was actually Cruise. It was a parlor trick.

    And Magnolia is execrable. Simply awful, Cruise included. I will be sure to skip this one as I’ve skipped every Cruise vehicle since WotW.

  • 19. Diet Coke  |  June 24th, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Only good Tom Cruise role was as Vincent in Collateral. You could tell he used all of his genuine self-hatred in that one.

    Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33Wbxh3Xz9c

  • 20. tony  |  June 24th, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Tom Cruise was really good in South Park

  • 21. RecoverylessRecovery  |  June 24th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Tom Cruise sucks the chrome off a trailer hitch.

    Ever since I saw that clip of him prancing around on that sofa and then subsequently found-out he’s a scientologist to boot, I see him in a TOTALLY different light REGARDLESS of which role he’s playing.

    Watching him interpret von Stauffenberg for example almost made me spit out my hefeweizen all over the Weichselstrudel in disgust. And btw, that’s NOT how we dance Der Guten Tag Hop Clop!

  • 22. franc black  |  June 24th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Tom Cruise is to straight men what Johnny Depp is to ‘other’ men. Neither acts very well, but both are admired by their fans nonetheless.

    Moments that make me like Tom even more:

    -Magnolia, every second of it

    -jumping on the sofa during prime time TV proclaiming his love for a woman … the subsequent mocking he has received makes my blood boil

    -Valkyrie…whoa… fan-f’n-tastic, and if that means I have no taste, well then I’ve got no goddam taste

    He’s been around for a long time, and will continue to thrill his fans for the duration of our lives.

    Long live Tom Cruise !

  • 23. Jonathan  |  June 25th, 2010 at 2:49 am

    I’ve always been of the opinion that an actor should be more talented than they are pretty. For years that was my problem with Leonardo DiCaprio. As soon as he went all scruffy and Depp and put on some more acting chops, he’s quite entertaining to watch. I’ve always said Leo needed to get his nose broken, just enough for it to be crooked.

  • 24. Fissile  |  June 25th, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Cadet Captain David Shawn in Taps was Cruise’s only good work. I’m guessing because his character was a nutty douche, so no acting was really required.

  • 25. FrankMcG  |  June 25th, 2010 at 7:12 am

    First Facebook, now Cruise?

    Eileen is missing the boat more and more on easy cultural targets. What’s the next article? “Why Pet Rocks are dumb?”

  • 26. Bb King  |  June 25th, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Christ, is Eileen the only person who still writes for this fucking website?

    too true, they alright but i need some cutting political shit

  • 27. NXRO  |  June 25th, 2010 at 8:28 am

    how many of you complaining about the lack of articles from the War Nerd contribute dollars to the exile?

  • 28. wengler  |  June 25th, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I second Collateral as a good Tom Cruise movie.

    Sociopathic hitman fits him nicely.

  • 29. FrankMcG  |  June 25th, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Geez, people actually thought he was good in Valkyrie? He was the only thing WRONG with that movie. Every single other actor looked and fit their part perfectly except for him. Whose bright idea was it to get a cultist to play an anti-Nazi?

    Cruise is only really good when he’s playing a hyper-driven douchebag (Magnolia, Tropic Thunder), because he aint really acting at that point.

  • 30. Oksana  |  June 27th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    “how many of you complaining about the lack of articles from the War Nerd contribute dollars to the exile?”

    I won’t donate a kopek to this leftist, self-hating shithole of a website, but I bought two copies of Gary’s book and I’d finance a month’s load of his fish and chips or whatever it is that he eats if he started writing again.

  • 31. Duro  |  June 28th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Tom Cruise has made some thoroughly decent flicks. Can’t be denied.

    That this is the most interesting article on the site is a sad state of affairs.

  • 32. Ozinator  |  June 29th, 2010 at 4:12 am

    The war Nerd love needs to be examined as hard as Cruise love…getting a boner over the violent aspects of poorly understood conflicts shouldn’t cause other men to want to jump in and fellate. Losers

  • 33. ramona  |  June 29th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    what’s wrong with jumping on a couch and scaring Oprah ?
    “A Few Good Men” was good too.

  • 34. Bob  |  June 29th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Diaz is indeed bland and forgettable next to even a small thumbnail of Hepburn, although to be fair that would apply to most women. Just look at her cheeky “why yes, of course I do anal” grin, awww yeah.

    Cruise, I pity more than I dislike. The level to which he’s embraced Co$, in all its glorious batshit insanity, shows that for all his money he’s still vulnerable and easily controlled. Perhaps in part because the cult keeps recordings of your confessions to “crimes” for blackmail purposes.

    > getting a boner over the violent aspects of poorly understood conflicts

    Holy projection, batman! It’s certainly not because they were just plain good pieces of writing that explained complex issues in an interesting and accessible way, no sir. Anyway, team eXile recognises his value … his link is first on the navbar and has been for quite some time. So there is presumably a good reason for his absence.

  • 35. Kyle  |  June 30th, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Top Gun is enjoyable if you watch it with Quentin Tarantino’s interpretation in mind (a man’s struggle to accept his homosexuality). I watched about five minutes of Valkyrie and couldn’t go on once Cruise pronounced “Goebbels” like he was rooting for Michael Jordan.

  • 36. CJT  |  June 30th, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Coming next week,
    JPG’s of Eileen’s snapper.

  • 37. Andy  |  June 30th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    You know, I’ve tried to take Tom Cruise seriously as an actor for some time now…but every time I attempt to watch one of his movies, my ADD-riddled brain can’t help but play a clip of him laughing maniacally and blithering on about “suppressive peoples”.

  • 38. RecoverylessRecovery  |  July 1st, 2010 at 11:01 am

    @ #37

    That’s because your Reactive Mind is still struggling against your Analytical Mind. Your Engrams and Tone Scales are completely out of whack. You need Dianetic Auditing ASAP to Clear you so that you can begin to realize your reality as a Thetan.

    Simply mail-in a money order (no personal checks please) to the ‘Church’ (giggle) of Scientology in the amount for $750.00 and soon you’ll be bouncing off your sofa in gleeful Cleardom.

  • 39. vortexgods  |  July 3rd, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Hmm, well, Zaitchik is writing for Salon, Dolan is teaching in Iraq, and Taibbi is working for Rolling Stone….

  • 40. shwabster  |  July 18th, 2010 at 11:30 am

    #5 johnny depp’s a bad example cuz last 5 of his movies were for 8-year-olds and it’s getting impossible to recall to see him in anything of value

    tom’s got a few decent flicks

  • 41. DOPEaddict  |  July 19th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Vanilla Sky was a total mindfuck for me. It spoke to me, man! Kind of like how Elvis Costello talks to sad, grown-up men living in their parents’ basement, but still. I wouldn’t watch it again, tho, as it seemed to bore a hole in my brain. Then again, it was during my last manic episode before medication, so that would be a better explanation. Probably.

  • 42. arrowrod  |  July 26th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    In the grand scheme of bad movies with unbelievable, suspension of logic, holes, how can a throwaway movie with Tom be considered bad?

    If it makes a profit, it’s good!

  • 43. yoni levy  |  August 24th, 2010 at 7:01 am

    “That’s the worst film of all time, real talk.”

    it’s not worth halh of the price that I payed for the ticket.

  • 44. Roger Talmadge  |  September 13th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I think Tom Cruise is the best! He’s my hero , i adore him. i wish upon many stars to meet him in person. that would be A DREAM COME TRUE! Oh my God! i love you thomas cruise

  • 45. Mike Z  |  September 24th, 2010 at 5:54 am

    nah, tom’s had a bunch of good flicks – a few good men, vanilla sky, 4th of july, minority report, collateral…

  • 46. LiveAndLetLive  |  May 12th, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Wow…I’ve never seen a website like this whose readers are so ungrateful to the individual taking the time and effort to share with them. I gotta say, I’m a Cruise fan because of the entertainment value of most of his films. I’m not into movies to critique them…I’m into movies for sheer entertainment and escapism. LOL And on that note…the charm of Tom’s smile is absolutely undeniable…in my opinion. As for Magnolia…a friend of mine told me I absolutely HAD to see it. I feel sad that I’ll never reap that 3 hours of my life back…Tom Cruise or not. Every one has a right to their opinion. The exact web search that brought me to this site was “tom cruise eagle scout” because I was curious to know if he ever was a scout. Lo and behold, I find this site. Every single entry has been interesting on its own merit, even if I’m not in total agreement. I would simply ask of anyone even remotely interested in this site to give this Eileen person some gratitude for what she’s posted. Shit, I don’t AGREE with pretty much any of what she said, but I certainly respect her right to her opinion and commend her for sharing it. My thought is that maybe instead of ripping her to shreds, post some of your own thoughts…if it means that much, you’ll pay the fee to post it, right? I’ll likely never visit this site again, but for those of you who will and read this…I’d just lovingly suggest that you show a little appreciation for those heading it up. I’m a “to each his own” kinda person, and felt the need to share this. Thanks for your time. (Smirking grin included at no charge).

  • 47. Kathy  |  December 18th, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I can’ stand TC !!! I loved him in Top Gun & Risky Business and a few others which I can’t even remember. It wasn’t the couch stomping or his looks, just his love um & drop um regarding the wife’s. Now, more disturbing is to know he hasn’t seen Siri for 2 freaking years yet wants full custody of her. His oldest daughter Annabelle ( believe that is her name ) didn’t invite him to her wedding. The ex’s don’t dish dirt on him which I SINCERELY believe they have WAY MORE CLASS then he & perhaps when signing a “contract ” before marrying ” Mr. So full of himself, & Mr. So & so so busy he can’t find time to see Siri
    I hope Katie’s attorney dad can shut down any chance for tommy boy
    EXCUSE ME if he did not bother to see that little girl in 2 yrs what would he do when he is busy, busy traveling or making his movies. Oh I know….. Just hire a live-in nanny which God knows would be soooooo much better then being with her mother
    GET A GRIP tommy boy & try to do the right thing for her & not your over inflated ego. We know ya can’t be normal but REALLY if you love Siri BACK T F OFF


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