LAMB Acting School 101 is coming up, and I had yet to write an 'original' (in quotes because how original is a top five list, really?) post on one of the subjects. Damn it, it's time.
The subject, as you might have guessed by the title of this post, is Tom Cruise. Legend, pariah, action star, small man, chronic fake laugher, Maverick. Star or co-star of an impeccable "(TV)"- and "(V)"-free IMDb resume (seriously, 36 credits up there right now and they're all A-list films, short of Losin' It, perhaps). Somewhat embattled a bit by scandal/supposed insanity over the last 8 years or so, Cruise remains a top box office draw and has been at or near the top of the A-list for nearly 30 years. Certainly, choosing but five of his films would prove difficult.
Or not. There's certainly many quality pictures to choose from, but the film chosen below were done almost immediately upon sight of his filmography. you could likely talk me out of number five in favor of another film, but the first four are all locks, and I don't see them going anywhere anytime soon. On with the countdown:
5. The Firm - I never read the book, but I read enough of it to know that Cruise was way off in the casting of Mitch McDeere, who I believe was described as a hulking college football quarterback type, somewhere where in the 6'3" range, if I recall correctly.
No matter. You want a Boy Scout for your story, you could do much worse than nabbing Cruise, the eternal determined, fearless, type-A personality if ever there was one. Sydney Pollack directed the John Grisham adaptation with intensity, a healthy dose of atmosphere (not quite Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil magic, but you get the feel of Memphis pretty good), and, best of all, a sense of humor and a terrific cast of veteran character actors, from Hal Holbrook to Ed Harris to Terry Kinney to David Strathairn to Wilford Brimley, for chrissakes. Not meaningful cinema, but a hell of a solidly-acted film.
4. Mission: Impossible - This was more of a movie catching me at the right time in life than anything else, I suppose. It's not particularly great, with the type of ridiculous finale that I usually laugh at and/or hate. But...short of that, it was an engaging espionage thriller, with a crackerjack intro that had you meet a bunch of characters only to kill half of them off almost immediately (including a shocking Emilio death), some memorable action set pieces (the invasion of Langley, complete with Cruise doing his high-wire dangling act, and Jean Reno and Ving Rhames in the most memorable roles they've had outside of the ones that made them famous.
3. The Color of Money - The student has become the teacher has become the student. Indeed, the setup of this film is not all that original, but Paul Newman owns the screen, and Cruise in the midst of his hotshot Hollywood rise, all with an in-his-prime Scorcese directing? Yes, please! Doesn't hurt that I was once a rising young pool shark myself; okay, that's a vast exaggeration, but I sure did play a lot once upon a time, and unlike The Hustler, there is actually some good pool play on display here.
2. Minority Report - I don't detest the ending of this like Mrs. Fletch does, but damned if it doesn't have the Spielberg Memorial Mega Super Happy Finale flair, complete with the Daddy issues theme that runs like a vein through seemingly all his films. But a phenomenal Phil Dick story remains a phenomenal Phil Dick story, and Samantha Morton makes it all go down so well. Even better is a desperate, on-the-run Cruise in one of his better performances. An underappreciated gem.
1. Top Gun - The cineaste in me, the movie snob, would indeed scoff at this choice, as many of you are probably doing right now (if you weren't already with some of my other choices). Well, though. Sure, it's a homorerotic feast for the senses with bad music, overacting and enough melodrama to rival a soap opera, but it's so much more than that, and if I have to recap it all for you, you clearly haven't seen it.