Live. Die. Repeat. Live. Die. Repeat. So goes the marketing hyperbole for the latest Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow.
Which is funny. Because at some point near the third act climax of this inventive alien invasion flick (think War of the Worlds meets Groundhog Day) you might well find yourself shooting up from your seat and shouting, “Hang on! I don’t want to alarm anyone, but haven’t we been here before?” Well, you have.
Cruise, you see, is nothing if not consistent. And ever since hitting the big time in 1986 with Top Gun, when he was transformed overnight from an intense young actor to a megastar brand, ‘The Cruiser’ has been meticulous in maintaining, and tending to, his screen image, often replicating and refining the most Cruise-i-ness of his roles and narrative adventures.
The result of this refinement has meant, at best, that worldwide audiences know exactly what they’re getting from a Tom Cruise Picture. At worst, it means that his movies, certainly the recent ones, have started to look very, well, cut out and keep. Observe, below, the six key ingredients now essential to every self-respecting Tom Cruise blockbuster.
1 | He's Cocky
Edge of Tomorrow: Cruise opens the film by swooshing into Trafalgar Square in a military helicopter, delivering a flash-toothed smile to the head of the armed forces (Brendan Gleeson), and explaining why his skills as a communications maestro exclude him from grunt duty. “I do this,” he says, beaming, “To avoid doing that!”
Repeat: “There’s nothing I can’t do with a race car,” he says, beaming in Days of Thunder. “I am the bartender,” he says, beaming in Cocktail. “Vincent is the best!” says Paul Newman, staring admiringly at Cruise, beaming, in The Colour of Money. “He is the most trusted covert agent in the world!” says Peter Sarsgaard, contemplating Cruise in Knight and Day. “I am the guy!” says Cruise, beaming in the same. “You are in the top one percent of all naval aviators!” says Top Gun’s Tom Skerritt, staring admiringly at..
OK, OK, we get it. He is the cock of the walk!
2 | He Does A Cable Jump
Edge of Tomorrow: Rear Admiral Gleeson, repulsed by Cruise’s self-confidence, assigns him a front line place in the following morning’s great push against the alien invaders on the Normandy beaches. In order to do this, Cruise must perform a death defying cable jump from a moving aircraft.
Repeat: Cruise performs a death defying cable jump from a helicopter at the Sydney-set climax of Mission Impossible 2, a terrifying cable jump into the enemy lair in Oblivion, and the most death defying cable jump ever from the top of a Shanghai skyscraper at the climax of Mission Impossible 3.
In other words, he’s got this.
3 | He Meets A Girl. But She's Kind Of Dreamlike And Unobtainable
Edge of Tomorrow: Cruise’s success in battle and very survival will depend on his association with lethal warrior femme Emily Blunt. His connection to her, however, is ethereal, and almost dreamlike, while their chances of a fully realized romance are repeatedly hampered by darker narrative urgencies.
Repeat: Cruise is desperate for a romantic connection with Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky, yet even when they’re together, she remains frustratingly illusive (“I don’t need to get to know you!” she teases), and almost ethereal. She is, in other words, dreamlike and, in fact, literally dreamlike, because, spoiler, she’s part of a dream.
Naturally, eventually, he jumps off a building.
Equally, in Oblivion, Olga Kurylenko turns out to be the woman of his dreams, if only because she is the woman from his dreams. And then he blows himself up.
Poor guy can never get a break, eh?
4 | He Rides A Motorbike
Edge of Tomorrow: There is never a bad time for Tom Cruise to ride a motorcycle.
In Edge of Tomorrow, in the midst of the much-vaunted beachfront assault on the alien horde, we do a hard cut to Cruise on a Triumph Thruxton, scooting around the Mall and then down to a pub in Waterloo, where he contemplates the inevitable annihilation of the human race, over a pint. Seriously.
Repeat: Take your pick. Cruise goes for a post-coital spin on his Kawasaki Ninja in Top Gun. He drives his Triumph Speed Tripple into Dougray Scott’s face in Mission Impossible 2. He puts Cameron Diaz on the back, and then the front, of his Ducati Hypermotard in Knight and Day.
And, in Oblivion, he even moves, in the year 2077, across the ravage wastelands of post-apocalyptic earth, on a souped-up trail bike. Because, really, nothing screams futuristic dystopian hell hole more than the sight of Tom Cruise going for a jaunty spin on a bike.
Note, when he can’t find a bike, Tom opts for muscle cars — see the Ford Mustang in War of the Worlds, or the Chevrolet Chevelle in Jack Reacher.
Extra note, when he can’t find a muscle car….
5 | He Runs
Edge of Tomorrow: Feeling hopeless and unsatisfied at the allies’ progress against the alien enemy during the beach push, Cruise is suddenly fuelled with adrenalin and charges across the sand, full pelt, legs and arms swinging a go-go.
Repeat: Cruise simply, infamously, can’t stop running on camera. You say ‘action’, he runs. If he had his way, he’d do every film running.
In War of the Worlds he runs covered in ash. In The Firm he runs down his posh suburban street, after his terrified wife, catches up with her and warns her, without irony, “If we run, they find us!” In Mission Impossible he runs to escape an exploding fish tank. In Jerry Maguire he runs in slow-mo to express his existential despair.
And in Collateral, he runs like a liquid metal terminator in order to terrify the shit out of passing LA nightlife.
In short, he runs.
6 | He Has A Climactic Epiphany
Edge of Tomorrow: Despite his best efforts, the battle thing isn’t quite working out for Cruise. He gets depressed and, just when you think that all hope is lost, he realizes that the truth to his situation, and the solution for all mankind, has been staring him in the face all along, and that he, in the words of commanding officer Bill Paxton, can be, “The master of your own fate.”
Repeat: “You can choose!” hisses Samantha Morton’s bonkers psychic witch at the climax of Minority Report, just as Cruise is realizing the truth, that his fate isn’t set, and that ultimately, he’s in charge.
In A Few Good Men it takes a few brewskies and some lonely soul searching with his baseball bat, before he realizes that his destiny is inside, rather than outside, the courtroom.
And in Collateral his epiphany comes in the closing frames, when he realizes that nobody will miss him when he dies, sighing, “Do you think anybody will notice?”
Yes, Tom, we will notice. We will.
Edge of Tomorrow is out now