Knight and Day
Director : James Mangold
Screenplay : Patrick O’Neill
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Tom Cruise (Roy Miller), Cameron Diaz (June Havens), Peter Sarsgaard (Fitzgerald), Jordi Mollà (Antonio), Viola Davis (Director George), Paul Dano (Simon Feck), Falk Hentschel (Bernhard), Marc Blucas (Rodney), Lennie Loftin (Braces), Maggie Grace (April Havens), Rich Manley (Danny), Dale Dye (Frank Jenkins), Celia Weston (Molly), Gal Gadot (Naomi), Jack O’Connell (Wilmer)
It’s been two years since we’ve seen Tom Cruise on the big screen, and it’s not hard to surmise why he would choose a film like Knight and Day as his next starring vehicle. Despite its absolutely terrible title (it tells you nothing in terms of what the film is about and relies on a lame pun that we discover by the end of the movie has two meanings, neither of which are even remotely clever), it is a generally fun and diverting action-comedy that takes advantage of Cruise’s natural screen persona, his toothy smile, and his willingness to poke some fun at his own mega-watt image while also carefully reinforcing it. Working from a screenplay by bit actor-turned-writer Patrick O’Neill, director James Mangold, who was an indie darling in the mid-1990s before crafting a sharp Hollywood trajectory with the tense thriller Identity (2003), the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (2005), and the smart Western remake 3:10 to Yuma (2007), keeps the film light and loose and allows Cruise and co-star Cameron Diaz to do most of the heavy lifting, although he also gives us a few surprising twists on old material, such as when he stages a lengthy rescue from the in-and-out drugged perspective of Diaz’s character, which turns what would have been rote material into a sequence that is both funny and narratively economical.
Cruise plays Roy Miller, one of the U.S. government’s top agents who has either cracked a screw and gone rogue or has discovered that one of his fellow agents (Peter Sarsgaard) is up to no good and has gone rogue. In either case, he has gone rogue, which makes him dangerous. At the Wichita airport he crosses paths with Diaz’s June Havens, an unassuming single gal on her way to her younger sister’s wedding in their hometown of Boston, and she thinks that she has just bumped into a great catch until she discovers on the airplane (in the film’s oddest and unlikeliest sequence) that he has killed everyone on board (including the pilots) because they were agents trying to catch him and he must now crashland the plane. From there, the story hops, skips, and bounces all over the world as Roy evades various U.S. agents out to catch him and an army of assassins led by a European arms dealer (Jordi Mollà), all of whom want to get their hands on the invention of a scrawny teen genius named Simon Feck (Paul Dano). June ends up going along for most of the ride, despite the fact that Roy continually tries to get her out of the line of fire; it’s a classic love-hate screwball relationship, fueled by constant danger but ultimately cemented by June’s realization that most of Roy’s most ridiculous antics have been designed not to complete his mission impossible, but to get her home safely and clear her name. Cue: Awwwwwwww.
At times, Knight and Day works with crackerjack glee, wearing its ludicrous exaggerations of the action-adventure genre so boldly on its sleeve that is seems almost overly insistent in reminding us that we’re all in on the joke. At times there are a few too many bullets flying, and a sequence on a remote island hide-away seems a little too crassly calculated to get Cruise and Diaz into swimwear. Yet, other sequences, particularly a lengthy chase in Seville that begins with June getting injected with a truth serum that turns her into a dreamy-eyed, slurring junior high girl smiling about her first crush (Diaz seems to be having the best time here, and her skills as a comedienne shine), have a real spark and sense of excitement while also maintaining the film’s overall sense of humor. Some of the effects work is a bit shoddy, which kills the underlying tension of some of the action, and there are a few points where it feels like the material is being stretched too thin, but overall Knight and Day delivers plenty of bang, but with a much-appreciated wink.
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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