There are too many fantastic performances in the movie to go into detail.
Rarely can a movie be described as "perfect" without employing a certain degree of hyperbole. However, in the case of Tropic Thunder, co-written by, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, no other word would be appropriate. One of the most anticipated movies of the summer, Tropic Thunder has the potential of being recognized as one of the great movies about moviemaking in the tradition of Sunset Boulevard and The Player.
Stiller stars as Tugg Speedman, a white dwarf of an action star who is quickly running out of steam and whose films have been less and less profitable. Speedman is cast in the movie version of Tropic Thunder, which tells the story of an army platoon sent on a suicide mission in Vietnam. The other actors who have been cast include Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), a comedic actor with limited talent, and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.), a five-time Academy Award-winning Australian method actor who undergoes a "pigmentation surgery" to darken his skin so he can play an African-American character.
Along with first-time director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) and rapper-trying-to-turn-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), the actors set out to make the greatest war movie of all time. Cockburn soon realizes that is his actors are too concerned with their image, performance or drug habit to fully dedicate themselves to the movie. Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte), who wrote the book on which the movie is based, convinces Cockburn to drop his actors in the middle of the jungle and employ a guerilla filmmaking approach. However, the actors are inadvertently dropped into an actual war zone; convinced the perceived danger is a part of the movie’s special effects, they give little concern to their well being until things get a little too real.
There are too many fantastic performances in the movie to go into detail here. Suffice it to say everything you have heard and will hear about Downey’s performance is true. Throughout the movie, not even a hint of Robert Downey Jr. is seen as he dedicates himself fully to the role that only he could pull off convincingly. If the Academy recognized comedic performances, Downey would be guaranteed a Best Supporting Oscar. The other highly anticipated performance comes from, surprisingly, Tom Cruise as the overweight, vitriolic producer Les Grossman, a clear imitation of former Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who is known for berating and abusing his employees. And Danny McBride, a relative newcomer, comes close to upstaging most of the other actors as Cody, a demolition-obsessed special effects expert who takes almost too much joy in his job.
The performances are what make the movie hilarious and entertaining, but the script is a perfect satire of Hollywood and fame-obsessed actors. Stiller as the director does a wonderful job balancing the time taking jabs at actors, producers, agents and the media that reports on all of it. He is able to get wonderful performances out of every actor, and also film some amazing action sequences that rival any Stallone movie.
Tropic Thunder is unique in that it’s not a straight action movie with explosions for no reason. It’s not a straight comedy, either, because there are much deeper levels to it. No matter how hard it is to categorize, the movie is flawless and will entertain anyone who goes in regardless of what they are expecting. | Matthew F. Newlin