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At The Movies:: Career: Impossible?

Cruise and MI:3 ***

Sasha Stone

Mirror Film Critic

Tom Cruise seems to be the latest celebrity everyone wants to see fail. Before that, long ago, he’d managed to stay one step ahead of the rumors and gossip. Let’s see, he’s gay. His marriage to Nicole Kidman was a financial arrangement and a sham. He is a Scientologist who believes in silent births and withholding male “essence” for spiritual power.

Cruise’s bad publicity came to a head when he fired his famous publicist, Pat Kingsley, and hired his (as Defamer.com dubbed) “publisister,” Leanne DeVette. At the same time, Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch to declare is love for Katie Holmes, argued with Matt Lauer and smooched Holmes in public, who turned up later pregnant. He then held a silent birth for her just on the eve of his latest action thriller, MI:3.

Was Cruise too weird now for his movie to be a success? Have his antics finally overwhelmed his remarkable popularity? Much of it is related to the religion everyone loves to hate, Scientology. Despite the success of true believers like John Travolta, Cruise wasn’t someone who spoke much about it. Until recently. As soon as he reversed the hard work his very good publicists had done for him over the years and started blabbing about Scientology, all bets were off. He was a prime target.

All eyes were on Cruise this past weekend when MI:3 opened. Many were speculating that if the film didn’t open BIG Cruise was over. The film took in a decent but not impressive $48 million. It was expected to take $60 million and thus be the number one moneymaker heading into the summer. But the box office gave Cruise haters what they needed to snicker and watch the man take a tumble. Matt Drudge announced on his website, “The Crash of Cruise.” Many were calling the weekend’s take a “bomb.”

What is remarkable about all of this isn’t that Tom Cruise’s private life caused MI:3 to take in $12 million less than expected but that we have all revealed an ugly side to our own humanity. We are delighting in someone else’s downfall not unlike the days when public stonings were a form of entertainment. The bottom line is this: does the film deliver? Well, yes, it does.

MI:3 is easily the best of the Mission Impossible films and the only one really worth sitting through twice. It has the best action sequences, the most thrilling villain and finally, they’ve mastered the effect of creating a mask of someone else’s face that then gets pulled off to reveal another actor. That effect was cheesy in the first two films but in this version, directed by J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost), it is seamless.

In this installment Ethan Hunt has found the love of his life (Michelle Monaghan) but he hasn’t told her what he does for a living because for the past few years he’s been training agents rather than taking on the impossible. But when he gets a mission he can’t refuse (rescuing one of his own protégées) he’s back on the hump. This time, he’ll be tangling with high level government officials and the Middle East.

MI:3 will likely be among the better summer popcorn thrillers. Abrams knows how to create compelling characters in peril. What a shame, though, that the public seems more interested in watching Cruise stumble and fall. The taste for downfall seems to be getting more insatiable. You have to wonder, who’s next?

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