Tom cruises in Cannes but not on screen
An honorary Palme d’Or, a fly-past by French Air Force to honour him, crowds of fans-- so long as Tom Cruise was there, Cannes was centred on him
Cannes Film festival and Hollywood are a match made in heaven. Every year the line-up of films at the biggest celebration of cinema in the world boasts of at least one big studio smasher, if not more. And the presence of many mega-stars that bring the French Riviera to a grinding halt for a day or two. 2022 has been the year of Tom Cruise who came calling here after 30 years with his latest biggie, Top Gun: Maverick. I am told that the last time he was in Cannes was for Far and Away (1992).
When asked in a press conference, about why he gunned so assiduously for Cruise, Thierry Fremaux, Delegate General of the festival, spoke about how the star has been “faithful” to his projects and directors and the brand of cinema—read mammoth—that he represents.
“He has had one of the greatest success rates,” said Fremaux, adding that in the times of the pandemic, he is an artiste who can make it possible to bring the audiences back to movie theatres. Something that is of the biggest concern right now for the industry, and the film festivals as well.
Days before its commercial release on May 27, one can only speculate on how the film would fare at the box office, but Cruise was quite in control when it came to the festival and fans.
He was awarded an honorary Palme d’Or, a surprise he wasn’t quite prepared for. An expansive (almost 15-minute-long) tribute reel to the eternally boyish star, featured scenes from Rainman (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and an assortment of other films and famous Cruise one-liners like “Sometimes you gotta say, what the f***”. It was played at the ceremony and before the other screenings of the film as well.
He charmed the fans waiting for him at the European red-carpet premiere of the film, at the Grand Theatre Lumiere, patiently signing autographs, taking selfies, chatting with the fans spanning generations—a mix of the young and old—who had travelled miles and waited for him since early morning. All this while ‘Great Balls of Fire’ played in the back-ground.
The fans who couldn’t get a spot near the red carpet watched him on screens spread across Cannes, beaming the event live. If that weren’t enough, the French Air Force honoured Cruise with a fly-past, the fighter jets spraying blue and red colours across the sky in celebration of the new sequel to the 1986 Top Gun. So long as the 59-year-old was there, Cannes was centred on Cruise.
“It’s been 36 years since Top Gun, and we had to hold this for two years because of the pandemic. I’m going to take this all in and I’m never going to forget this evening,” said Cruise of his felicitation.
Earlier in the day, in an interaction at Salle Debussy, he spoke about how he does his own stunts (“No one asked Gene Kelly why you dance”), his commitment to entertaining his fans and how it was never an option to release Top Gun: Maverick on a streaming platform. “I make movies for the big screen,” he said.
While his presence drove the fans crazy, the film itself left the house divided. Did it not lay the nostalgia a bit too thick, screaming aloud from every frame? As though saying “look at me” to the audience. Be it the Ray Bans or the Kawasaki Ninja or that beloved jacket—objects of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) affection that got immortalised in the film lore. And the snatches of conversations about how it is the pilot who matters, not as much the plane.
After 30 years Maverick is finally back where he belongs. The fastest test pilot alive is now training newbies for a specialised mission to destroy the uranium facility of a rogue nation. Among them there’s Lt Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.”, who makes him confront the ghosts (and secrets) of his past, deaths and losses and assumed betrayals.
In between the thrills in the sky, the dog fights and air stunts, there’s a mere apology of a plot, barely a story to hang on to but hey there’s also a team building football match on the beach. To show off the buff bodies, including that of Cruise. Unfortunately, his face tells a different story—of the lines of time peeping through the eternal boyishness, the crow’s feet smiling around the eyes.
The freshness of the film has aged as well. It’s time to let go, Maverick is told in a scene in the film. I wonder if one needs to do the same with a film that enchanted us with its cool quotient in the days of our youth and now seems lost mid-air.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)