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Killer Cruise

September 28, 2010

by John Farr

This week, Reel 13 airs the Tom Cruise classic, Rain Man. And just in case you can’t get enough of Tom, John Farr recommends three of his favorite Cruise vehicles.

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

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This riveting biopic of Vietnam protester Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) opens with his all-American upbringing in Massapequa, NY, and entry into the war as a deeply patriotic enlisted man. Later, Kovic returns home disillusioned and psychologically scarred from a bullet wound that’s left him paralyzed from the waist down. Alienated and adrift in Mexico, the hard-drinking vet eventually begins to pull his life together, devoting his energies to anti-war activism.

Helmed by “Platoon” director and Vietnam vet Stone, “Born” is a profoundly moving portrait of a macho athlete whose horrific battle experience causes him to reassess his politics and reorient his give-’em-hell attitude. Cruise, in an ambitious turn away from heartthrob roles, plays Kovic with precision and conviction, especially at his darkest moments, delivering the finest work of his career. Co-written by Stone and Kovic, “Born” reflects the pain and anger felt by an entire generation of returning US soldiers, and will leave a lasting impression.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

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Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a sports-agent who’s seen better days. Undermined and outflanked by ruthless colleague Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), Jerry goes solo, with a solo client: pro footballer Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who believes he needs his head examined, and whose mantra to Jerry seems unending: “Show me the money!” Just when things seem at their bleakest, Jerry meets Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellwegger) and her young son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki). Once Dorothy becomes Jerry’s assistant, things begin to look up on all fronts, and we have the makings of an authentic David Versus Goliath story.


Cameron Crowe’s directorial breakthrough (he also scripted) is an infectious comedy-romance buoyed by a star-making turn from Zellwegger, and an Oscar-winning comic performance from Gooding. Young Lipnicki is pretty appealing too, and all provide Cruise with plenty of opportunities to shine. Razor-sharp yet very human satire ends up really warming the heart.

Magnolia (1999)

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In the San Fernando Valley, a male nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman) caring for a dying media titan (Jason Robards) tries to contact macho sex guru T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) to tell him about his estranged father’s fading condition. Meanwhile, an ailing TV quiz-show host, Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), hopes to reconnect with his drugged-out daughter (Melora Walters), who’s being courted by a tender-hearted cop (John C. Reilly) in this sprawling drama of intersecting lives and fortunes.


Anderson’s magnum opus is an ensemble film like none we’ve seen since the heyday of Altman, clearly the young writer-director’s inspiration. Each member of the impressive cast, including Julianne Moore as a pill-popping wife and William H. Macy as a grown-up child celebrity, bring an angst-filled depth to the themes of personal and familial dysfunction that have defined Anderson’s work since “Boogie Nights.” Plus, playing a misogynistic motivational speaker, Tom Cruise registers with one of his most powerful performances ever. “Magnolia” is a revelatory, emotionally cathartic film full of energy and a robust enthusiasm for cinema. Despite a final, overwrought “plague” sequence which blunts its overall impact, this film remains a breathtaking psychological drama, full of twists, turns, and sing-songy surprises.

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  • View Comments
  • BeninBrooklyn

    I think Risky Business is one of Cruise’s best films – much under-appreciated. Great film making, great acting, great visual style, very funny. A gem! “Sometimes you gotta say ‘what the f*ck!'”

  • rayban

    I like Tom Cruise a great deal – I love him in some of his earlier efforts, like “The Color of Money” and “Rain Man” – and I especially like him in so-called “stretching” roles, like “Interview With The Vampire” and “The Last Samurai” and “Collateral”.