How long has it been since the first time Thomas Cruise Mapother IV laced up his shoes and raced across the screen in pursuit of that most elusive of goals, box office glory? The man has 46 official credits to his name in the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), dating all the way back to Endless Love and Taps, both in 1981 and including a recently announced sequel to Top Gun and a sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise.
But the persistent and defining notion of Tom Cruise, now 54, involves him running. He is always either chasing someone or something or being pursued; and he believes that he cannot slow down or, God forbid, stop. Acting and the development of character, for him, is about perpetual motion and nothing else. It could be argued early on in his career that there was a certain sense to the idea. Young men have boundless energy and a reckless invulnerability to them, and the young Cruise was the all-American embodiment of that on the big screen. He was simply caught up in the breathless race towards the future, with little time for reflection or even a backwards glance.
Yet, a recent screening of The Mummy gave me pause. Here was Cruise as Nick Morton, a cocky soldier with that same roguish grin and reckless abandon we’ve come to expect, endangering his own life as well as that of Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), his younger comrade-in-arms by dashing into a hail of gunfire in search of treasure. The story wants to convince us that Morton is the perfect blend of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but in truth, Morton, like most Cruise characters lacks the dry wit and intelligence that would result from that combination. In the end, all that remains is an action figure that can’t stop.
I wish someone would sit down with Cruise and explain to him that he can settle down. It’s time for him to leave what he imagines to be his glorious Peter Pan days behind, because the harsh reality of the Pan myth is that such arrested development leads to emotional and spiritual ruin.
The Mummy is just another box office treadmill, which means that, even at its best, Cruise will always wind up in the same spot. What’ the point? (Now in theaters) (PG-13) Grade: D