A couple of weeks ago I attended a special presentation of about twenty minutes of footage from the new Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow, which opened in New Zealand cinemas this week.
As impressive as the footage was (and it was very impressive!), the most remarkable thing I saw that day was a filmed pre-amble from Cruise himself. Introducing the footage to the audience, Tom speaks into the camera for about ten minutes, never once breaking eye contact and never once stuttering or stumbling over his words. His sustained absolute composure was utterly transfixing.
It was clear that he was reading from a script, but I still felt he was speaking directly to me. I've always loved The Cruiser, and that love has never faltered. But I don't think he's ever seemed more like true movie star than in those ten minutes.
For more than a decade now, Cruise has been the target of a substantial amount of animus, both from the media and the public.
Speaking as someone who finds themselves in conversations about movies a lot, I find the subject of The Cruiser tends to inspire wide-eyed fury in even the most serene of individuals.
Not me. You simply cannot see Top Gun at the age that I did and not form a life-long reverence for The Man Who Was Maverick. Beyond that childhood hero worship, I've always enjoyed his slick and often subversive embodiment of the modern leading man.
The acting ability always been there (See: Taps, Rain Man, Magnolia, Collateral). It's more his "antics" that seem to enrage people. And his controversial religion.
Having remained a steadfast apologist throughout this time of tumult, I take great pleasure in recently perceiving a mild thawing of the widespread distaste for Thomas Cruise Mapother IV.
The infamous "couch jumping" incident on The Oprah Winfrey Show as often been cited the beginning of Cruise's PR problems, which it should be noted have never seemed to impact upon his box office performance much.
As this widely disseminated LA Weekly piece articulates, that whole story was a beat-up that rode the crest of the the burgeoning phenomenon of viral video.
One of the most interesting things mentioned in that article is how Tom Cruise wasn't an action star for the first decade of his career, even though that's how he's generally perceived.
The movement is gaining steam. The general public is chilling out. It's time for Cruise haters to start acting like adults. Whatever you think of L. Ron Hubbard, do you really want to write someone off because of their religion?
Cruise's new film Edge of Tomorrow (which opened this week in New Zealand cinemas) is helping the cause. It's been pretty well-received thus far and having just seen it myself, I am ready to call it his best film since Collateral. And that's saying a lot for me because I really love the two most recent Mission: Impossible films. Heck, I love all the Mission: Impossible films. Even Part II. Guile moves and all.
Edge is something special though - and feels like the kind of film that maybe wouldn't have been made on the scale that it was if Tom Cruise didn't throw his weight behind it. His choices determine which movies get made, and for the most part, they are pretty darn awesome. (I'm overlooking Knight & Day for the time being).
The fact is that Tom Cruise does what he does extremely well. There is an authenticity to his matinee idol presence that a nostalgia-hungry media market is starting to acknowledge. And that's a good thing.
* Are you still on the Tom Cruise Hate Train? Or are you amped for Edge of Tomorrow? Comment below!