The Tom Cruise Thriller On Streaming That’s Better Than Any Mission: Impossible

By Sean Thiessen | Published

Tom Cruise in The Firm

Tom Cruise’s name is nearly synonymous with stunts. These days, he is best known for his high-flying antics in Top Gun: Maverick and for his long-running role in the Mission: Impossible franchise. But in films like the 1993 thriller The Firm, Tom Cruise flexes not his muscles but his dramatic chops, and his gripping performance is streaming now on Paramount+.

It’s easy to forget that Tom Cruise can do a movie without death-defying stunts, but his classic legal thriller The Firm puts his acting skill first and foremost.

Based on author John Grisham’s novel of the same name, The Firm is a taut legal thriller packed with riveting twists and moral dilemmas that make the genre so compelling. Tom Cruise stars as Mitch McDeere, a fresh-faced graduate of Harvard Law School who takes a cushy position at a prestigious law firm.

The pay and perks come at the cost of grueling hours, which Mitch spends discovering that the firm is not as interested in upholding the law as it is bending it. When the shady dealings of Mitch’s new employer yields a body count, the FBI approaches Mitch to help take the firm down.

Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise in The Firm

Tom Cruise anchors The Firm, joined by Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, Ed Harris, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn, and Gary Busey. The shimmering ensemble turns in a set of powerhouse performances under the direction of legendary filmmaker Sydney Pollack.

However, the cast of the film almost looked very different. Charlie Sheen and Jason Patric were early contenders for the role of Mitch, but producers Scott Rudin and John Davis wanted to go bigger. As the budget nearly tripled from $15 million to $42 million, Rudin and Davis asked Tom Cruise to lead The Firm.

tom cruise oblivion
The Firm

Saturday Night Fever director John Badham and Die Hard director John McTiernan were both in the running to helm The Firm, with Tom Cruise even expressing interest in sitting in the director’s chair. Politics and personalities turned the situation into a mess, and Paramount Communications president Stanley Jaffe handpicked Sydney Pollack to direct.

Fueled by the star power of Tom Cruise and the rest of the film’s ensemble, The Firm surged to a $270 million gross, the highest for an R-rated film all year.

Gene Hackman did not join The Firm until the film was already deep into shooting. Meryl Streep was considered for Hackman’s role, but John Grisham fought the gender swap, delaying casting.

The Firm eventually made its case in theaters on June 30, 1993. Fueled by the star power of Tom Cruise and the rest of the film’s ensemble, The Firm surged to a $270 million gross, the highest for an R-rated film all year. The Firm also became the highest-grossing adaptation of a John Grisham novel ever made.

During the week of the release of The Firm, John Grisham and Michael Crichton accounted for the top six books on the New York Times paperback bestseller list. In 1993, Crichton also saw the biggest adaptation success of his career with the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

tom cruise academy award
The Firm

The writers were not the only ones having banner years in ‘93. The Firm was nominated for two Academy Awards; Holly Hunter was up for Best Supporting Actress, and composer David Grusin was nominated for Best Original Score. Tom Cruise had previously been nominated as an actor for 1990’s Born on the Fourth of July, and would later be recognized for Jerry Maguire and Magnolia.

Performances from the cast of The Firm were, to many critics, the best component of the movie. Tom Cruise and Holly Hunter were particularly celebrated, but the film’s screenplay left many critics and audiences wanting more.

Adapted by David Rabe and Robert Towne, the screenplay for The Firm takes a bit of the stink off of the protagonist that Grisham crafted in his novel. Though Tom Cruise still delivers a compelling performance, some argued that polishing the film’s main character zapped energy, suspense, and ethical conundrum from the story.

Though Tom Cruise made The Firm a successufl movie, a later attempt to turn it into a series, without Cruise, lasted only one season.

The Firm was one of the last movies Tom Cruise made before Mission: Impossible; only Interview With the Vampire separates them. The Firm is arguably the end of an era in Cruise’s career, delivering the final performance of Cruise as a young man and paving the way for his image as a more adult actor.

The Firm may not be the most famous Tom Cruise movie, but it is a gripping entry in his vast and varied filmography. His career looks different than it did in 1993, but his commitment to great movies has never changed. Action star Tom Cruise is awesome, but we will also have a soft spot in our hearts for the Tom Cruise of movies like The Firm, and we can visit him anytime on Paramount+.