Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kill Tha Wabbit, Kill Tha Wabbit

Sorry, People Magazine, sorry, TMZ, sorry, Gawker, Defamer and all the rest. Tom Cruise will continue to make movies. In fact, whatever insights this article has to offer, I think we're all selling Cruise short, both as a capable actor and a consistently malleable persona.

Valkyrie is neither great nor terrible. It's competent, that's about it. The rhythm seems missing from the movie, at least the rhythm we'd expect from Bryan Singer. It comes down to accent-less performances that are nonetheless in the appropriate range.

Our attention is eventually focused on how far the fetishism of the actors in these ss uniforms will be amplified (I was on Eddie Izzard watch, believe me). Palpable fear looms over this production, as if they knew that any false move would make for them a certified howler. If Tom Cruise had done less couch-jumping and pill-bashing over the past few years, we might have had a freer movie, but then again, we probably wouldn't have had Valkyrie at all.

Sad, really. Cruise is at home with mutilation. He shows this in Vanilla Sky or Minority Report, or with his emotional castration in Eyes Wide Shut (where he spends a significant section of the movie hiding his face). A director working to wring dissonance out of his boyish American face can do so indelibly, partly because Cruise is (usually) willing to be completely naked in those scenes.

The moment where Cruise's Von Stauffenberg is forced to salute the portrait of Hitler, and defiantly uses his stubby arm, is almost an example of this. It might have had more impact, as the scene suggests the possibilities for Kubrickian image making, rather for camp or creep-outs. Cruise's image stays safely on the side of "please take me back, America".

America will. In the annals of celebrity meltdowns, Cruise's freakouts are minor. Angelina Jolie is next, anyway.

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