Knight And Day
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz
Review: 4 stars (of five)
Knight and Day is a lot of fun. It’s the cinematic equivalent to a mojito on a Saturday in July.
Let’s start with Cameron Diaz. As the entry character, the one through whose eyes we experience the film, Diaz is great. If you associate her mostly with, say, Something About Mary and Charlie’s Angels, you might think of her as a good comedienne but forget that she’s a good actress. Remember her in Being John Malkovich? Girl can act. Here, she’s most like the part she played in The Sweetest Thing, where she was carrying the film as a woman approaching her thirties and looking to find true love. Picture that girl thrown into a Mission: Impossible movie, and you’ve pretty much got this film.
Diaz is a civilian who gets caught up in (deliberately) absurd and deadly espionage intrigue, thanks to a charming, manic Tom Cruise (playing closer to the guy who jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch than usual). Chaos ensues, sparks fly, and the audience must wonder, will they fall in love? Will they survive? Is Tom Cruise an insane renegade or a superhero?
Cruise is great fun, because even as he’s shooting a dozen SWAT-ninja bad guys, he’s solicitous to Diaz’s emotional needs—a positive, can-do guy in a world of necessary homicide. There’s always something creepy and manic about Cruise (it starts with an “S” and ends with an “ientology”), and here, because we’re seeing the Bond/Bourne/MI world from a civilian’s point of view, that focused insanity is a comedic asset. (This preposterous movie makes those other cartoon-espionage thrillers look like cold-war documentaries, or early Le Carre novels, by comparison, and it’s the perfect approach.)
Director Jame Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, Girl Interrupted) keeps the script, by Patrick O’Neil (sole credit, and this seems to be his first feature screenplay), percolating along. Nice point: The action sequences are neither done in the au courant nauseating shaky-cam of the Bourne Identity series, nor scored with jarring and inappropriate heavy metal, like a video game.
The first true action sequence, which introduces Diaz to Cruise’s world of trouble, is an inventive delight. At this point, you hope that they just don’t aggressively screw anything up—just coasting to a finish will be a win. The film keeps up the energy, the parody-level action sequences and the simmering romantic-comedy, until about the last half hour of the film. After some more serious plot turns undermine the momentum, Mangold and co. take half an hour to play out a fifteen-minute denouement, and you feel the drag. Not Lord of the Rings, ending-after-ending-after-ending drag, but still. It doesn’t subvert or distort the film, it just sucks out a fair share of the momentum, and makes the final, rom-com-perfect gags seem more tired than they otherwise would.
This film aims to be a romantic action farce. It aims to make you happy for not quite two hours. It wants to charm and thrill you, and send you home with a smile. And it does.