Magazine article The American Conservative

Cruise Control

Magazine article The American Conservative

Cruise Control

Article excerpt


[Mission: Impossible III]

Cruise Control

WITH TOM CRUISE, the glass is always about five-eighths full. Sure, as an actor he's memorable merely as the personification of youthful energy, and as a celebrity the Scientologist has turned into a pest as his once bulletproof public-relations skills have broken down.

Yet Cruise's movies are consistently better than they need to be. Since 2001, he's made the artistically ambitious science-fiction films "Vanilla Sky" and "Minority Report," the silly but magnificent-looking "Last Samurai," and the limited but effective "Collateral" and "War of the Worlds." Only Russell Crowe's films have been consistently better, but he seems too drunk and disorderly to work as often as Cruise. Hollywood likes its leading men to set an example for the whole film crew. "Superstars do not get where they are by throwing temperamental fits, malingering on the set, or not following directions," a talent agent explained to reporter Edward Jay Epstein.

Now Cruise is starring in the action blockbuster "Mission: Impossible III," which, being the second sequel to the remake of an old TV show, sounded dreadful. "M:I-3," as it has been designated with a superfluity of punctuation, will, however, frustrate the hopes of everybody who wants to see Tom Cruise fall on his face. While it's a little too quick-witted to rake in a huge pile of money, it's an expertly concocted summer barnburner.

Since 1983's "Risky Business," the boyish Cruise has epitomized the shift in American preferences about the age of our heroes that began with the replacement of the wise Dwight Eisenhower by the vigorous John F. Kennedy. Many 1930s actors, especially hard drinkers like Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, looked older than their years, while today's health-crazed male leads-with the exception of that throwback George Clooney-seem almost adolescent. (Cruise, however, isn't quite Dorian Gray: like many 43-year-olds, his nose keeps growing.)

Maybe you just need more energy to remain a star these days.

Cruise is not a great actor, but he has made himself a very good movie star through his Stakhanovite self-discipline. Few have responded more productively to the exhausting responsibilities of stardom in the post-studio era. In the 1930s, studios owned actors, whose responsibilities were limited to learning their lines and socializing glamorously with other screen idols. …

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