Monday, May 08, 2006

Choose Your Cruise: MI:3

I never tire of emumerating the evils of advertising. That must mean I really have a secret love for it. Before the movie, I discussed with other posters the machine that is Tom Cruise. Since TAPS, Cruise has perfected himself into an animal hardwired to project itself as our ideal. Even if he's also endowed with the Darwinian shortcoming of making a royal ass out of himself while very publicly courting breeding-age actresses to spawn the Super-Tom.

That still makes him perversely watchable, Expand...and his films intriguing as secret portal to the inner workings of the machine (a trick: the machine is quietly churning). Since he's one of the producers of MI:3 (with Paula Waggner), one suspects not a lot escaped his radar in the script. Or, maybe it did. When Ving Rhames says things like "that look's a pain in my ass," can we buy that as a giveaway to Cruise's own relationship with his handlers pre- and post-Katie?

Ok, dumb question, so enough about Cruise, the publicity nightmare. Some of my other favorite Cruise incarnations are in this film.

Cruise, the rationalist: When Phillip-Seymour Hoffman as the malevolent Owen Davian gloats about the demise of a former associate, Cruise's response is to open the floor of the transport they're flying and lower Hoffman until Ving Rhames convinces him to stop. Rhames tells Cruise's Ethan Hunt he has his six; along with Hoffman, Rhames has the audience's six, making the film more interesting than it would have otherwise been. Because as perfect a specimen as Tom is, one thing he is not is interesting.

Cruise, the Goethe character: At one point, goaded to explain why he's marrying someone from whom he'll have to hide his real life (he bores all his fiance's friends by overexplaining his job at the Department of Transportation), Hunt says "life before all this." Though talking about life at Impossible Mission, he could be talking about fame. Thi can not be: The machine can not possess a melancholy.

Cruise, the sprinter and the adrenaline junkie: It's inescapable to note what an amazing specimen Cruise is. The one heart-stopping moment of the film has Cruise jumping off a building, then sliding down another until he catches himself on the ledge. The scene absolves the silliness of Hunt's planning the mathematical angles of the escapade on the window of a Shanghai apartment safehouse with wax pencil. No one else in Alpha Team is convinced, and it's during these scenes we get the ubiquitous hard-bitten characters praying for the hero.

Cruise, the world citizen: If not for the screen telling me where I was, then not even all those times, I wasn't always on the ride. That's kind've the point of fast-paced action films with a hollow center where the plot should be. If you move fast and put in lots of amazing action and explosions, you really don't have time to wonder where you are or why you're going there. I did like a glimpse of Cruise as a Czech citizen boarding a plane. He had me from his "ok." Give me an evening of Cruise playing this little Czech guy with mutton chops on a stage and I'll be held rapt.

Cruise, the environmentalist: There are a lotta explosions. A lot. When Hunt and another character talk about "clean-up" and "infrastrucure," you're left agape. Over the course of the film, we see a lot of environmental damage, but it's all entertaining enough to get you to the next explosion.

Cruise, the medicinalist:Cruise gets to give an adrenaline shot and a digital vitamin in the movie. Absolutely nothing to do with the overall story, just pretty cool stuff. And, apparently, vitamins are not outlawed by Scientology. Just anti-depressants.

Cruise, the nontheist: In one scene we get Cruise dressed in a priest's frock (in which he also exchanges an wary look with a dark-haired Vatican security guard that, with a few tweaks, could have been a Jo Orton nudge). It's worth noting that there were no howls from the Vatican during production of MI:3, as there were during Ron Howard's DaVinci Code. The latter doesn't, at least in the trailes, show any of the actors blowing up the Vatican basement. I didn't wait/wade through the credits, though, to ascertain whether the Vatican scenes used any actual Vatican footage. The plotpoint, and I use the word lightly, that augments the use of the Vatican begs the question: What does Cruise think of other religions? Ok, unfair of me, but is Scientology an actual religion? A belief system? A series of steps to attain Cruise-ness?

Cruise is a machine. The machine is great and good. And has a killer smile.

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