A lot of stories are being written this week about Tom Cruise's starpower hinging on the success of Knight and Day. Speculation by some box office watchers has three days of Adam Sandler and his cronies besting five days of Cruise and Diaz. A $3.8 million start on Wednesday is not very optimistic and stories are starting to spread about Cruise's moviestar shelf life; the guy who has headlined only one film (Valkyrie) since December of 1992 that did not break $100 million at the box office. And that was *only* $83 million. Except this is not one of those articles.
Nor is it an article debunking the rumors of his bankability. Nope, it is a chance to look back upon Tom Cruise's work and the lifelines of his characters. Lestat was, seemingly, not the only immortal this guy has played throughout the years. From Pete Maverick to Ethan Hunt, Cruise has been involved in more sticky situations and death-defying scrapes than the Road Runner. But when it comes to near-death experiences, Cruise's doppelgangers are more like Wile E. Coyote. It is unfair to count close calls in dangerous situations or even second act flame outs of jet engines or car crashes that get him choppered away. It was as if he took the John Wayne model to heart since dying in (29 YEAR SPOILER ALERT!) Taps, of all movies, and made it very, very hard to put him under for good.
And he made it very clear as Far and Away's Joseph Donnelly who said "you could be sure l won't be dying twice." Here the guy had just bashed the back of his head on a rock and had a horse roll over him. He was on his way out, the soul hovering over his body...until...Nicole Kidman said she loved him, the soul did an about-face and re-entered. If it knew then what it knows now, it might have kept those eyes shut.
Interview with the Vampire's Lestat appeared to have died a second time. Halfway through the film his self-created vampiric pets feed him some tainted blood and throw his diseased body into a swamp. Ah-ha, but you can't keep a Cruise vampire down. Maybe for just about the entire second half of a film, but not for the denouement when he pops up in Christian Slater's car to get a fresh dose and immediately feels "better already." Watch the scene here.
Flashback to the past, Cruise is newly minted samurai, Nathan Algren, who desperately mounts a suicide charge against the Imperial Army. In The Last Samurai, he takes several bullets to the chest from a Gatling gun, but not only is he the only one on the battlefield to survive, he helps his pal Katsumoto commit seppuku and then lives out one of the lamest final scenes of the new century -- single-handedly preventing a treaty for those pesky Americans to sell arms to the Japanese.
Maybe those bullets missed every vital organ, but it's pretty hard to miss a bomb in the skull. That is what Philip Seymour Hoffman's baddie does to Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible III. It even gets activated, but thanks to a few power cables Ethan electrocutes himself. That's a dead man right there ... except his nurse girlfriend is able to perform CPR. Wonder how far his soul got that time.
Honestly, there are only three ways one can possibly kill off a Cruise in their movie. One is to make him a bad guy, though you can imagine an alternate ending where that train in Collateral stops near a hospital where a surgeon is waiting to board. Maybe he was just sleeping. Secondly, subscribe to history. Put him in the shoes of a real-life figure and line him up in front of a firing squad. Let's see him try and escape that. Or lastly, you can sneak the Cruise onto the set and dress him up with a mustache and a cowboy hat. Let the guy from Three O'Clock High shoot him and audiences will be none the wiser. Well played, Christopher Cain.
As for his latest, Knight and Day, Cruise's Roy Miller comes up against any number of bullet-ridden scrapes, often putting himself in harm's way to protect Cameron Diaz. Is he just a little crazy or is he really a bad guy as his fellow CIA agents claim him to be? Seems that would put him directly in the line of fire for that rare Cruise death scene. Who is Roy Miller? Will he make it? Maybe find another way to come back to life? Or will he even be wounded? Guess you will just have to go see so we can all find out how he tiptoes around death in Mission: Impossible IV.