What do you think is Tom Cruise’s best performance?

The over-punctuated “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” opens Friday, the fifth movie in the “M:I” franchise. Of late, Cruise has largely confined himself to action roles, movies in which he is very much TOM CRUISE, ACTION FIGURE.

This was not always the case.

This is a terrific piece on Tom Cruise, The Oscar Years. I agree with virtually all of it except for one thing: I think Cruise should have been nominated for, and won for, “Rain Man,” which won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director (for Barry Levinson) and Best Screenplay in addition to an Oscar for Dustin Hoffman.

In addition, I think had he won an Oscar for this role, he would have stayed an actor who took (or perhaps would have been offered, for all I know) more interesting parts for longer.

Take another look at his portrayal of Charlie Babbitt, the slick, MV5BMTQ4NTA1NDU3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODUwMTU2NA@@._V1_SX214_AL_20-something hustler who suddenly discovers he has a brother he never knew about. Hoffman played Raymond Babbiit, Charlie’s autistic brother with the spotless memory who has lived in an institution all his life.

Initially, Charlie wants access to his brother for the money — Ray has received the bulk of their father’s estate. Eventually, after one of 80s cinema’s best roadtrips, Charlie decides he doesn’t care about the money but wants a relationship with his brother. They part ways, with Ray returning to the institution.

The neatest trick about Cruise’s performance is that, while he undergoes some growth getting to know Ray, he is essentially the same man. Does knowing Ray make him a better person? Sure. probably. But the movie never implies he turns into a saint.

Cruise is legit brilliant in it with, yes, a harder, subtler part. His growth in the movie is complete credible and a few scenes are among Cruise’s finest (the scene in the bathroom with Ray freaking out about the hot water is beautifully done; you only remember it as overblown because of the size of Hoffman’s panic).

That is my pick. What do you think is Tom Cruise’s best performance.





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