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Reviewing Cruises performance in 2006s Mission: Impossible III (in which, among other things, the daredevil star performed his own jump across a 15-foot gap in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge), I wrote, only semifacetiously, What Im saying is that Cruise really is superior to us mere mortals, that hes faster and stronger and more focusedand, well, just betterthan you or I could ever hope to be, and that this is the very thing that draws us to him, and probably what repels us too. And that remains, I think, a reasonable encapsulation of Cruises enduring public fascination. Some people love Tom Cruise. Some hate him. Others claim not to pay attentionyet sometimes they are the ones who seem to know the most about him. Simply put, we cant seem to get enough of Tom Cruise, and yet we search for cracks in the gleaming facade, reminders that he, too, is only human.
In the post-couch-jumping era, this has arguably gotten easier. It has been suggested that the star isnt quite as potent at the box office as he once was, delivering a third Mission: Impossible that, while a hit by almost any measure, failed to exceed the gross of the second. Meanwhile, he has been criticized for being the outspoken advocate of a religionScientologythat some say has changed their lives, that some mock for sport and that some say isnt really a religion at all. Never mind that Cruise is hardly the first Hollywood star to champion non-mainstream beliefs or to engage in the occasional act of eccentric public behavior. And never mind that, as Bill Maher ably demonstrated in the otherwise specious documentary Religulous, there isnt a major religion on the planet that can claim to have its underlying tenets verified by scientific fact. (Thats where a little thing called faith enters in.) The point, of course, is that we are talking about any of this in the first place, which is a far more compelling barometer of Cruises staying power than any box-office chart.
Cruise, for his part, is accustomed to the scrutiny by now. Ive had this on movies, this attention, he says. Its accelerated today, because of the nature of communication, how things get twisted and spun and thrown out there. And also Bryan, he says, momentarily deflecting the focus back to his director. Hes Bryan Singer. Hes very famous.
What he means to say, says Singer, is that my apartment was near to the hotel where Tom was staying, so occasionally, when he was taking one of his very brief rests, Id get some of his spillover paparazzi.
I dont know what to do about it, Cruise adds. When youre making the film, you cant worry about that. Youve just got to always go back and make the movie.
Which brings us back to Valkyrie and, in particular, its endingthe one that some have suggested makes the movie a self-defeating enterprise, and that, for all but the most historically oblivious, could only be made more apparent if the film had been titled The Assassination of Claus von Stauffenberg by the Coward Friedrich Fromm.
I now must defend it, says Singer, whos heard this argument before. Stauffenberg, at the very end, may not have known, personally, whether Hitler was dead or alive, really, because of Nazi spin propaganda. But the goal, as [Maj. Gen. Henning von] Tresckow said in real life and says in the movie, was to show the world that not all Germans were like Hitler.
And also to inspire others to stand up against tyranny, says Cruise. Its timeless.
So, even when the guy fails to complete his impossible mission, he still manages to come out on top. What, really, could be more Tom Cruise than that?
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