Having been one for almost my entire life, I feel like I can say this: actors are eccentric people. You almost have to be left of center in order to successfully convince others that you aren't who they know you to be. For someone as successful a celebrity as Tom Cruise then, who has navigated the waters of Hollyweird for as long as he has, it's no surprise that there are entire websites devoted to his couch-jumping, religion-imposing ways. In fact, one can make a solid argument that Cruise's odd behavior has overshadowed his acting prowess within the last 10 years, which is a shame, because the guy is putting out some phenomenal work. I rented Edge of Tomorrow this weekend, a Groundhog Day-esque sci-fi war movie that poses some really interesting questions about the emotional ramifications of time travel. And though I may not have understood (or cared about) all of the exposition for why Cruise's character was living the same day over and over again, I found the film to be extremely entertaining. It may be one of my favorite films of 2014 thus far; it was that good.
This is due in large part to Cruise's performance, where he starts by playing against type as a slimy, military officer who sells the glory of war to prospective soldiers but is deathly afraid of seeing battle himself. I really bought Cruise in this role, and it was very refreshing to see that Doug Liman, the director, did not cast Cruise simply because it was a sci-fi epic that required an action star. It's a movie that is driven by character just as much as it is by explosions; a film with a true arch for its protagonist. Even more surprising was that this arch is understated, a story that's being told on Cruise's face rather than with dialogue.
As the credits rolled, I found myself shocked that Cruise was so great in this flick. I was even more impressed by the behind-the-scenes footage, which reveal the actor as someone with unrivaled work ethic, literally running from his mark at the end of a take to reset before doing it again. I was astounded that the guy worked 7 days a week, did all of his own stunts, and regularly oscillated between day shoots with Doug Liman and night shoots with the 2nd unit director. This is in addition to the actual acting, which involves realistically reacting, on a studio backlot, to men dressed in green suits who will later be replaced digitally by horrifying aliens.
I gained a newfound respect for Tom Cruise that day; a man who consistently has to prove himself over and over to his audience with each film (and doesn't mind doing so, despite his celebrity). It's amazing to think about that fact, especially when looking at the actor's downright excellent filmography. So next time the media mocks Cruise's eccentricity, I'll change the channel to enjoy one of his recent actioners like the underrated Jack Reacher, or the more intimate fare like Magnolia or Collateral, to remember that I'm not asking to agree with the guy's belief system, I'm asking him to entertain, and there are few that work harder and are more successful in doing so than Mr. Cruise.