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Tom set for Teflon mission
- Test of ‘ruggedly handsome’ star’s ability to bounce back despite controversies
A poster of the film Mission :Impossible:III: Can he pass the test'

Los Angeles, May 3 (Reuters): When widely hyped action flick Mission: Impossible III opens in the US on Friday, Hollywood will be looking for clues to a billion-dollar question: Is Tom Cruise still one of cinema’s biggest draws'

If so, Cruise might earn a new nickname, “Teflon Tom,” for his seemingly innate ability to bounce back from bad or eyebrow-raising publicity about his involvement with Scientology, romance with actress Katie Holmes, preparations for fatherhood and public outbursts against psychiatry.

But if he can’t, the ruggedly handsome 43-year-old actor whose films have generated hundreds of millions of dollars at box offices may see his star descend from the Hollywood sky like many an action hero before him, such as Sylvester Stallone.

Right now, the betting favours Teflon.

“For kids who like him, he is still a handsome action man. They don’t care if he sounded off against psychiatry.' If he and Katie Holmes are happy, no one is going to begrudge that,” said veteran film critic and historian David Thomson.

But Thomson added that if m:i:III becomes just another movie in “a pretty stale franchise” and a poorer version of its predecessors at that, the star may be cruising for trouble.

In interviews to promote the movie, Cruise’s co-stars fended off questions about the box office or countered that director J.J. Abrams has introduced several new elements into m:i:III to lure fans despite any potential backlash against the star.

Abrams brings his own brand of modern-day suspense to m:i:III which he mastered in two worldwide TV hits he created, Alias and Lost. Moreover, to tug at audience heartstrings, the hero played by Cruise, secret agent Ethan Hunt, falls head-over-heels in love and gets married.

“He’s created two wonderful shows full of suspense. They are thrillers, but there’s a lot of drama as well, and he’s been able to take that and incorporate it into this film,” said Michelle Monaghan, who plays Hunt’s wife, Julia, in m:i:III.

Cruise, of course, was in the middle of his sofa-jumping proclamations of love and his Eiffel Tower engagement to Holmes during the preparation and shooting of m:i:III, and it shows in the movie. Holmes gave birth to their daughter Suri days ago.

“As an actor, your life always affects your work,” said co-star Keri Russell, “He was definitely falling in love.”

The film still has plenty of rocket explosions, gun battles, helicopter chases and Hollywood whodunit intrigue.

Hunt, who in this film has become a trainer for the secret “Impossible Mission Force” government agency, is lured back into action when a star agent (Russell) is kidnapped by villain Owen Davian, played by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Davian plans to steal a weapon of mass destruction from the Chinese and deliver it to terrorists. Hunt must save his colleague, get the weapon and capture Davian. Complicating his mission is a mole who has infiltrated the government.

But can the love, rockets and evil-doing be enough to lure moviegoers to theatres and redeem Cruise in his fans’ minds ' if they ever doubted him at all'

“I don’t get a sense that a significant percentage of Americans are really saying, ‘I wanted to see m:i:III, but now that he’s gotten so weird, I won’t go see him,’” said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University in New York.

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