The besties review
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The only thing I knew going in is that Michael Mann directed it and Tom Cruise is the villain. That first fact scared me a little bit (I have not been very fond of Mann’s work in the past, with the exception of Manhunter) and the second half made me really really excited (as an unapologetic Tom Cruise fan, I have long waited for him to take a juicy villainous turn). All in all, this movie was just pretty good to me.
As I expected, I loved Cruise’s slick and chatty hitman character, but Mann’s direction fell flat for me and Jamie Foxx’s performance was way too hammy. Juxtaposed against Cruise’s equally ostentatious performance, Foxx actually holds his own, but whenever he was alone it just felt way too stilted. His neurotic cabbie persona is definitely a classier version of his performance as the disgruntled scientist-turned-villain Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (whose civilian name is also Max, ironically). I was surprised to read that Foxx was actually nominated at the Oscars for this performance and I was even more surprised when I realized that this was also the year he won Best Actor for Ray! He’s only one of twelve performers to be nominated for two acting Oscars in the same year. Even though Cruise was the clear standout in this otherwise mediocre thriller, I seem to have spent most of my time thinking about Jamie Foxx? Not sure how that happened…
In a really rare moment of self-doubt, I watched Minority Report two days in a row. And let me tell you, sometimes a rewatch really changes your perspective.
My first time through I felt very dismissive of the dated special effects, convoluted action plot and occasionally laughable dialogue. If I’m being honest, I just thought “oh, this is another B-tier Spielberg movie that’s 90% fluff.” But the second time I watched it I was blown away—like literally jaw open, eyes widened with excitement from the first act on.
Peeking past the early 2000s VFX, I saw a movie that was narratively daring. The world-building on its own is Blade Runner level good, even if the end result is a bit schlockier, and the countless instances of religious metaphors and symbolism make for a thought-provoking film. At its core, Minority Report is a morality tale sewn into a sci-fi crime thriller.
Oh, and how could I get this far without talking about Cruise himself? The whole cast is great (I’m thinking specifically about Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton), but Cruise is electric. He brings the physicality of Ethan Hunt with a little extra humor, especially as it relates to the film’s more gory plot points (no spoilers, you’ll know it when you see it). I definitely see this one shooting up on my list of favorite Spielberg films and I don’t doubt I’ll be watching it again very soon.
After something as magnetic and thrilling as Minority Report, this movie really suffered. I definitely appreciated the cerebral mystery thing it was going for, but boy was this melodramatic, and not in a good way. As usual, I felt like Tom Cruise really embodied his character and the final thirty minutes were a nice showcase for what he can do with some meaty dialogue. That said, I sort of figured out the twist very early on (I’d say I had it 75% solved by the midpoint) so the big finale didn’t strike the way it probably should have. I can see why some people like this—it’s fun and romantic in a very very cheesy way. But on a fundamental level this one just didn’t click for me, even if I actually did enjoy it at times.
Days of Thunder
This is Top Gun but with racecars and not as good. Young Tom Cruise is young Tom Cruising, but this might be one of his least compelling performances. Really everything about this movie seemed average to me. Even his character’s romance with Nicole Kidman was surprisingly lifeless. The only thing I was really impressed by were the racing sequences and special effects. According to Wikipedia, the movie’s special effects were subject to criticism as the time of its release for being “unrealistic,” which is crazy to me because the effects in the racing sequences are clearly the stand-out for me, even considering this was made in the late 80s. I don’t want to rag on it too much—it’s still a treat to watch a young Cruise race around, get sweaty and throw a tantrum—but compared to the very similar and much superior Top Gun, this movie is just kind of unnecessary.
Born on the Fourth of July
This is the the movie that gave Tom Cruise his first Academy Award nomination (for Best Actor) and of course it’s a 2.5 hour Vietnam war epic from Oliver Stone. What can I say? I liked this thing, and Tom Cruise is legitimately great. Still, it’s very long and dense and some of it is tough to watch (like the prolonged sequence in the hospital). I think this movie definitely worth your time, especially if you are a Tom Cruise completionist like me, but I somehow don’t feel like Cruise’s performance is actually good enough to warrant a watch if you’re not already in on the premise. War movies are a tough thing to recommend, and even though all the best war movies are really anti-war movies (like this one), it doesn’t make them any less taxing. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Born on the Fourth of July doesn’t really bring anything new to the conversation, unless you’re really not sure what side of the fence you’re on. For me, Vietnam War = bad and stupid, and I didn’t need a long-winded character study to reinforce that ideology. On the other hand, tour de force from Tom Cruise, so you decide!
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!