War. What is it good for? HUH! Absolutely everything in Hollywood. When you head on down to the movies, there’s plenty of material out there that examines everything from post-traumatic stress disorder, to vintage wars that my shellshocked granddaddy won’t shut up about when he keeps on claiming that he comes from the greatest generation.
And yes, war is a serious thing. But when it gets the piss taken out of it, it’s also one of the greatest comedies ever made.
A film crew is in Southeast Asia filming a Vietnam-war memoir. It’s early in the shooting, but they’re already behind schedule and over budget. On the day an accident befalls the novice director, the cast and crew are attacked by a gang of poppy-growing local drug dealers, except the cast and crew don’t realize these aren’t actors who are stalking them. The thugs kidnap Tugg Speedman, an actor whose star seems on the decline, and it’s up to the rest of the ragtag team to band together long enough to attempt his rescue. But will Tugg want to leave?
How do you even make a serious topic such as war funny? By completely throwing logic out the window. That’s how you manage to make a panda-killing buffoon, a coked up comedian, two rookies and an actor who would put Daniel Day Lewis to shame in the method acting department, work.
And it works, it just works beautifully. Stiller may be calling the shots in that movie, but it’s clear that the rest of his cast has just managed to lose themselves in the absurdity of it all. After all, how the hell do you pretend to be an Australian heavyweight thespian pretending to be the opposite colour of snowflake, and still hold a straight face? It’s impossible, and yet, Robert Downey Jr is brilliant in the execution of that role.
Hell, just look at how serious he is throughout the whole movie, stifling a quick grin here and there. The man should have won an Oscar. And of course, the rest of the tropes are filled in perfectly. Jack Black as the despondent comedian. Ben Stiller being his usual oblivious self. Jay Baruchel and Brandon Jackson as the straight men of this piece.
And then you’ve got Nick Nolte in Batman voice mode with his hook hands, Steve Coogan in a short yet brilliant performance, Danny McBride molesting some explosives, and of course…Tom Cruise. I hate, absolutely hate the fact that several news agencies spoiled the news of his cameo in the film.
It’s Cruise as you’ve never seen him before, as a foul-mouthed Hollywood producer who resembles the actor as much as a toilet roll resembles a Ferrari. And he just runs with the role, making it his own. Foul mouthed and with dance moves from the Michael Jackson handbook.
Tropic Thunder is a movie which is ridiculous on paper, but just works brilliantly thanks to a great cast and some even better direction from Stiller. It’s slick, funny and paced perfectly despite the fact that it’s gone full retard, and it’s the kind of film which just gets better with repeat viewings.