Tom Cruise: resurrection
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Tom Cruise: resurrection

Mission Impossible: Fallout, the sixth movie in the Mission Impossible franchise, will parachute into Australian cinemas this Thursday. Critics are already raving, and by the looks of the box-office, it's set to be a smash.

It's also unequivocal proof that Tom Cruise might be weird; he might be, as the London Telegraph has suggested, unnaturally attracted to planes; he might be nothing more than a functional skinsuit for the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard, but he can still carry a film.

Film still from "Jerry Maguire" in 1996.

Film still from "Jerry Maguire" in 1996.

Cruise is one of the last great movie stars - he can act circles around George Clooney and Brad Pitt - laconic gents who rely too much on their looks and laid-back charm. Clooney will invite you in for a drink. Pitt might offer you a spliff. But Cruise is going hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro at 5am and he'll pass on both, thanks.

The vein-popping intensity that Cruise appears to have patented is what the American Dream was built on. The idea that all it takes is one deeply committed individual to give a rousing speech and change the minds of many is exactly why Donald Trump is in the White House. Stirring rhetoric is the opiate of the American masses. Stirring rhetoric with catchphrases? Come on!

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"We live in a cynical world."

"You complete me."

"Show me the money." And that's just Jerry Maguire.

People forget that you don't have Jack Nicholson's iconic line in A Few Good Men without the equally iconic baiting before it, "I want the truth!"  courtesy of Cruise.

You can easily imagine Cruise - who turned 56 earlier this month - delivering both "Yes we can" (Obama's electoral slogan) and "Make America great again" (Trump's). You can imagine this because he's played either a government employee or a member of a military organisation in more than half a dozen movies (TapsBorn on the Fourth of July, A Few Good MenMinority Report, Top Gun, The Last Samurai, Jack Reacher and, of course, Mission Impossible). And, because everything he does - from his own stunts to finding a soul mate - he does with conviction.

Kelly McGillis, left, and Tom Cruise are shown in a promotional image for the 1986 film, "Top Gun."

Kelly McGillis, left, and Tom Cruise are shown in a promotional image for the 1986 film, "Top Gun."Credit:PARAMOUNT PICTURES

The only (slight) problem is that his level of conviction is no longer considered fashionable. We prefer our heroes to be a little more grubby like they are on TV.

While he was still married to "Our Nic" he had our trust. But when they split, we started to wonder. Our wonder metastasised into open-mouthed shock when he began dating Katie Holmes.

Happier times: Nicole Kidman with former husband Tom Cruise.

Happier times: Nicole Kidman with former husband Tom Cruise. Credit:AP

History will record that Cruise's personal "fallout" began when he jumped on Oprah's couch in 2005. But that's not strictly true. The couch was the confirmation we were searching for, ever since their whirlwind, some might say performative, courtship became public: Cruise had lost it.

Holmes gleefully admitted she used to have a poster of him on her bedroom wall. This was the crux of the relationship: Cruise had chosen a fan for a wife. Which meant that Cruise's film self, full of masculine assuredness and high-key sanctimony onscreen, was, in reality, as fragile as an eggshell. It was pop culture's Watergate. A flaw in one of our most trusted institutions: the male movie star. Then, things got worse. A clip of Cruise speaking in nonsensical platitudes about Scientology, and then laughing maniacally, was posted on the internet. There were rumours he auditioned wives, and then a wild story alleging he froze out a girlfriend for daring to question his church.

Then, in 2012, Holmes blindsided us all by taking their daughter, Suri, and leaving him, furthering our collective cynicism about his sexuality, his religion, his authenticity as a human being. So it might surprise you to know that same year he was the highest grossing actor in Hollywood.

Tom Cruise, right, and Katie Holmes

Tom Cruise, right, and Katie Holmes Credit:AP

How can that be? Perhaps Cruise, like America itself, does not accept failure, even if it's staring him in the face.

Cruise grew up in abject poverty with a physically and emotionally abusive father; he struggled with dyslexia and attended 14 schools in 15 years. Cruise has been miscast as a controlling Svengali type and he is controlling – most highly successful people are. Remember, Beyonce had unflattering photos of herself erased from the internet.

Cruise joined Scientology in his 20s, just as his career was exploding. It might not look like a smart choice, but at least he tried to get a handle on things. He didn’t retreat into drug abuse like other actors of his generation. He put his head down and made movies. And some of them are cheesy because it was the 1980s. You want to laugh at "the need for speed"? Go ahead and laugh while you recite Dirty Dancing as if it were Jane Austen.

And if you're tempted to judge, remember that Johnny Depp was accused of hitting his wife. And Mel Gibson is an abusive racist. And Bill Cosby raped more than 50 women.

Tom Cruise Mapother IV jumped on a couch. It looks different in the shadow of #MeToo, doesn't it?

So now that he is on the upswing, let’s allow him to be great again. Because underneath that high-speed, blue-flamed, ham-fisted perfectionism is a man who probably struggles to believe it himself.

Natalie Reilly is freelance writer for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.