Remember when Tom Cruise was the biggest film star on the planet, with a string of blockbuster credits to his name. Arguably the last real superstar, whose very name would guarantee success or ensure a movie got made.
Following the “couch incident” and assorted gossip rag tittle tattle, his public reputation is now somewhat diminished, this film is a chance to re-assert his position as the ultimate A-Lister.
Presenting as a cross between, Bourne, Mission Impossible, Romancing the Stone and Get Smart, this has every chance to be a fun filled two hours of crime caper with, sassy dialogue, exotic locations and fantastic stunts.
Cruise as Roy Miller teemed with June Havens (Cameron Diaz), meet at an airport “by chance” and are immediately and relentlessly thrown into a non stop sequence of escalating events. Miller is a FBI superagent possibly gone rogue whilst attempting to protect a perpetual battery power source, invented by young supergeek Simon Feck (Paul Dano), from both the real bad guys Jordi Molla and possibly, bad elements of the FBI.
Cruise gets to perform his slightly manic, is he mad routine and Diaz acts as the innocent bystander, with no skills and lots of “fish out of water” scenes but who seems to develop very quickly into a handy accomplice.
This could have been fun but we are treated to one improbable action sequence after another, in ever more exotic locales. Each country usually entered whilst one character is drugged and unconscious. Quite how either character can drag the other past customs is not explained.
The effects, despite some excellent stunt work, are not good enough in a 2010 blockbuster and the direction by James Mangold is lacklustre, despite his pedigree (“3.10 to Yuma” and “Walk the Line”). The sequence on the tiny exotic island is a standout for all the wrong reasons, did Cruise keep that attacking plane special effect as an outtake from “War of the Worlds”?
Believability, even in fantastical situations is important and at no point does the audience believe the characters are in any real danger. The body count is colossal, seemingly with no cause and effect and the tone of the film lurches from relatively strong violence to comic interludes with little warning. With decent chemistry between the leads, this could still work but alas, this particular formula does not work. Diaz moving from apparent concern she will be a victim of date rape, to new found love for her kidnapper, in the fastest case of “Stockholm syndrome” ever seen.
This confirms that Cruise is mortal and can no longer rely on his trademark grin. He will have to act just like everyone else, which he is more than capable of doing, see “Magnolia”. Cruise and Diaz do try hard, maybe too hard but neither emerge with much credit despite the odd bit of interesting interplay. Sarsgaard as an FBI agent and Dano as the young scientist, being the only survivors, due mainly because they have so little to do in the film.
This arguably confirms that name power alone is now not enough to sell a movie, studios insisting on inserting CG into almost every shot in the hope of providing enough eye candy to interest audiences, see also Transformers 2 for details.
Disappointing, even though the film sets relatively low standards, it fails to meet them.
Despite many elaborate action set pieces, Cruise control has failed to mantain an adequate speed on this occasion.