At some point between the release of 1996's Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire I discovered I could predict future Tom Cruise trends based on what I knew about his upcoming releases. Granted, I could not give pertinent details such as box office grosses or where he might holiday with his family, but I could predict things such as potential co-stars (I had Thandie Newton as his M:I2 co-star before I'd even left the screening of the first installment of the franchise) and general trends. I have always believed Cruise's persona was carefully constructed in a way that is much more sophisticated than many stars' audiences are used to. Personally, I don't think any incarnation of Cruise's persona is in fact representative of Cruise himself, but I do think they tend to represent areas of concern he opts to explore on screen.
That said, the performance of his which seems closest to approximating what I think is his persona is the surprisingly nuanced turn he gave in Stanley Kubrick's last film Eyes Wide Shut. Being well-versed in the careers of every single other person in the film—particularly my favorite director the late Sydney Pollack—I'm pretty sure Cruise is the only person not doing a heap of acting in that film. For the record, I have resigned myself to becoming rather indifferent to Cruise and despite finding his presence quite bothersome, 90% of the directors whose work I enjoy do not share my opinion (Pollack, Woo, Kubrick, Levinson, De Palma, Mann, T. Scott). Long story short: I've seen a lot of Cruise's films. It seems as though Cruise is going through a transition phase before going back to being
a "boyscout" (a fourth installment of Mission: Impossible is slated for release in 2011), but like most transitional phases, this one's a bit difficult. Knight and Day is a film seeking to correct the wrongs perpetrated by Killers—a similarly themed and vastly inferior product—but does not realize it takes more than bigger celebrities, better CGI and a bigger budget. Like Killers the Cruise-Diaz film does not adhere to the conventions of the trope and well, it's just not very entertaining.
20th Century Fox has bet $120mil they can repackage the creepy, sexist off-screen persona of tarnished star Tom Cruise into box office gold with the film Knight and Day. Having seen the film, I can only shake my head at the studio's optimism. Unraveling over a decade's worth of steady audience alienation is a lot to ask of a few well-received public appearances, but I suppose it doesn't hurt Cruise to try. Cashing in on the controversial bizarre behavior, featuring sexist, ableist and arrogant outbursts on what used seemed to be a daily basis is risky business. The writers play around with the tarnished persona in a way I find profoundly disturbing. Now, I might have missed some of the nuances, what with the plot blowing up all over the screen, but I don't really think the writers accomplished their mission of meta-critique on fallen stars, perceived persona or whatever the hell else they sought to analyze through this tedious waste of film. However, I do seem to remember feeling annoyed at the number of times really objectionable behavior was framed as humor and therefore not considered something one shouldn't take too seriously. I'm sorry, when did the antics of misanthropes and sociopaths become so hilarious? I know, Seinfeld.
When Cruise's character Roy Miller isn't acting Hollywood "crazy" he is slipping June—the disappointingly cast Cameron Diaz—date-rape drugs! [screeching tires] I nearly fell out of my chair at level of cheek required to position date-rape drugs as something beneficial to anyone other than the assailant. A plane crash. All right then. Miller engaged in the sort of trope-a-licious bad boy behavior, which filmmakers suggest lonely, 40ish, unfulfilled white women simply cannot resist. It is painful, unfunny, sexist stuff, this Knight and Day, but will easily appeal to the same folks who made last year's homophobic dudebro film The Hangover such a breakout hit.