Thursday, 12 February 2009

Why we should all give Cruise a break

The Philosopher and I went to see Valkyrie last night. Given that I generally regard Tom Sutcliffe and Co on Radio 4's Saturday Review as my arbiters of taste and they didn't like this film, I wasn't expecting to like it either. The week that the panel was reviewing this film, most had a fairly negative view and one dude was downright convinced that the film was a vehicle for propogating Tom Cruise's freaky scientologist views - and this is on Radio 4! I wasn't super excited to see the film, but I thought I might as well check it out and I'm swiftly learning that arriving at the cinema with low expectations means you're bound to win: if you don't like the film you've lost nothing, and if you do like it, you're pleseantly surprised.

I'll admit that I've always had a soft spot for Tom Cruise (sans scientology, of course) partly because I came of age just after all the Top Gun insanity and because I like Magnolia and Rain Man and Mission Impossible (did you see the opening sequence of MI 2?!) and Minority Report and Jerry Maguire, but it's also because he reminds me of my dad. Weird right? But give the guy a break, seriously. Why are we so bitchy about actors who are just trying to have successful careers? We're convinced they're out to con us to see their crap movie, while they grasp their slimy little hands up each rung of Hollywood's greasy ladder, but a film only costs £10 (at least in London) - I can't see how that's a big deal. Sure Cruise has been in a few shite films (Far and Away, anyone?), but he's been in more decent films than most actors, and his truly awful films are few and far between.

Yeah, okay, Valkyrie isn't a great film, but it's far more interesting and ambitious than a lot of crap Hollywood churns out. And even if I thought it was a "star vehicle" for Tom Cruise, at least Valkyrie shows he has an eye for an interesting story. While Christopher McQuarrie's screenplay (he also wrote The Usual Suspects) isn't always well conceived - there's an excellent sequence about 3/4ths of the way through which is so agonisingly tense I was hugging my knees to my chest, but then the sequence ends in a total anti-climax only to have nearly the exact same sequence repeat again as the actual climax of the film and the second time around it isn't nearly as gripping. Such a silly thing to do - you're supposed to build to one climax - not build, deflate, build, deflate.

This isn't a rom-com or a band-of brothers testosterone fulled turbo-cop shoot 'em up piece of thoughtless Hollywood trash. Even if it isn't perfect - and maybe if the actors were unknowns and it was all done in German there may have been more gravitas - it's still packed with pathos and I think you have to give credit to TC for staring in and producing a film on souch a touchy topic . Given that the film's plot is such an interesting historical subject, it's surprising that no one has tried to dramatise it before. I'm not saying TC is a hero for acting in and financing a film about an inside plot to assassnate Hitler, only that the guy should get a bit of a break sometimes. He's just doing his job. And as far as I'm concerned he isn't doing too bad at it.

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