Remember that I am picking my favourite performances based on my enjoyment of the character/movie and the level of difficulty pulled. Again this doesn't mean having handicaps like wheelchair, gay, red hair or ugly will give the role more points. I'm looking more at believably performances and varying emotions.
Born on the Forth of July
Tom plays Ron Kovic, a paralysed Vietnam war vet from his biography. He returns homes to become an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after seeing how horrible war is and the waste of human lives.
This didn't make the role cause Cruise did a reverse 'Advance hair for men' or because of the wheelchair. He earns this spot because of the character he pours onto the screen and the empathy he draws out of the audience. Cruise is also helped with the deft directing of Oliver Stone who sets this story around the main protagonist rather than the war around it.
If you take the fake/odd gray hair out of the equation Tom gives a measured and worthy top 5 performance. Again as in many of actors top 5's the film is helmed by a credible director. In this case Michael Mann. Cruise manages to pull off a cold-blooded killer with charm when it could easily have been over the top and just another role. The malevolent hate between Cruises Vincent and Jamie Fox' Max is the driving force and both actors bring it. I also rated Tom pulling off such a character when he's so short with his boyish looks. A lot of actors in the same position would have over compensated. Tom did not!
This performance came out of the blue for me and on further views is a well measured and control acting performance. In an ensemble piece lasting a touch over 3 hours there are many memorable scenes and performances but the Cruise one is the stand out for me. Cruise does slick so well it often makes me wonder? hmmmm
Interview With The Vampire
I had read the Anne Rice book before seeing the movie and Brad Pitt was the hottest thing in town. That with the buzz of the young actress' performance (Kirsten Dunst). I was surprised how Cruise made his Lestat de Lioncourt purr throughout the film. As far as memorable and menacing vampire being recorded to celluloid go Lestat is one of the best for me. Tom's nuanced performance is highly underrated and he manages to own the screen without doing a lot of visual acting. It also show that I prefer Tom as a bad guy and not try to rely on his good looks.
This is the rare role where I enjoy Tom being a charming likable guy. Well almost. Some of you will claim I love this movie/role because it centers around my 2nd favourite sport Gridiron. Hey maybe it does, isn't that why we love certain movies. Any Given Sunday is definitely one of my favourite Oliver Stone movies. I'm not going to love a movie just because it has sport it needs more. And Jerry Maguire does deliver more. Sure there's the obvious Cuba Gooding Jr turn as team player who can smoke all you fools Rod Tidwell, and Renne Zellweger is cute and holds her own. But the movie needs Jerry to take off his cloak of failure and show the audience the money. Tom plays different parts as a cocky sports agent, a jilted boyfriend, a boss, a buddy and eventually a guy that cares.
Again the movie is steered by the very capable Cameron Crowe with a strong supporting cast but Cruise had me at hello pretty early on. This is also a very quotable movie that means the dialogue permeated into the subconscious long after the credits have rolls. Sure for some of you this just couldn't be his best performance but it is the one I've seen the most and the one I'm most likely to go back and see again.
Honourable mention has to go to these unlucky entrants:
The Last Samurai
A Few Good Men
Tom Cruise has been involved in some iconic hollywood movies but I was interested in how many of them have either; another actor (Dustin Hoffman in Rainman), effects (CGI in War of the Worlds) or the story line (Minority Report) carry it to greatness. It's not that Tom was bad in any of these, he just had to be himself and flash that toothy grin of his and let the movie roll. For all of his success and fame in my eyes Tom has never had that breakout performance but rather a breakout movie: See Top Gun.
Until then hail to Tom and Jerry!