"Cruise not only has the most distinctive gait in Hollywood—the New Yorker's Anthony Lane drolly applauded his 'ability to remain totally upright when sprinting, as if carrying an invisible egg and spoon'—he's got the most omnipresent run, with close-watchers tallying that over 80 percent of his films feature him in a mad dash," Amy Nicholson wrote in her definitive treatise on Cruisology, Anatomy of an Actor: Tom Cruise (Cahiers du cinéma, 2014). "He's run across soccer fields, football fields, tropical beaches, and an enchanted forest, toward proms and midterm exams and street fights and helicopters, away from missiles and more missiles and aliens and a detonated aquarium, over snowy hills, through pool halls, subways, small town Main Streets, Greenwich Village, and an abandoned Times Square, in tuxedos and Irish dungarees, and alongside everyone from soldiers to samurais. In Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol alone, Cruise runs in a dust storm, he runs in traffic, and he even runs down the side of skyscraper."
No one else runs like Tom Cruise runs.
His hands become blades, slicing the air. His spine snaps rigid, aggressively vertical. His thighs pump with a ferocity unmatched by Olympians and terminators. This is to say nothing of his face: Running takes focus, and when Tom Cruise runs, every millimeter of his face strains with focus. When Tom Cruise runs, the boyish charm the 53-year-old leveraged to become the world's biggest movie star vanishes; so, too, does that grin, that sparkle. Actors can be vain, but there is zero vanity in Tom Cruise when he runs: There is only this moment, only the running, and there is nothing else. Tom Cruise running is as pure an expression of Zen as will ever flicker across a movie screen.
As his best performances—those in Top Gun, Rain Man, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Minority Report, Magnolia, Collateral, Tropic Thunder, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, Going Clear—prove, Tom Cruise does not do anything halfway. Cruise goes all in, with a fearless, relentless ability to entertain. Tom Cruise knows how he looks when he runs. Tom Cruise doesn't care, because if he's going to run, he's going to run.
In recent years much has been made, usually as part of a PR push for Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, of how Tom Cruise does many of his own stunts. His super-spy Ethan Hunt certainly does a lot of running in these films, and Tom Cruise certainly does his own running. The series has almost become a showcase for Tom Cruise's running: In Mission: Impossible III, director J.J. Abrams was wise enough to include an extended sequence of Tom Cruise furiously barreling along a crowded Shanghai waterfront; Abrams held shots for what felt like an impossibly long time, and Tom Cruise's pace never slackened. A few years later, Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol somehow managed to find a way to have Tom Cruise run, both horizontally and vertically, along the gleaming windows of the dizzyingly tall Burj Khalifa.
I will say nothing of Tom Cruise's running in Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, other than to note that the very first time we see Tom Cruise in Rogue Nation, he is running—at which point he leaps onto the wing of a taxiing aircraft, runs up the wing, and manages to cling to the fuselage just in time for the plane to scream into the sky. This is only the first of Rogue Nation's many clever, intense, and largely wordless action sequences, and Tom Cruise does not do it halfway.