Knight and Day: Cruise At His Charming Best

There isn’t much to Knight and Day, an old-school action film which coasts on the charm of its movie stars and the delivery of its car chases to make up for the lack of originality. It makes some mistakes here and there, and it is totally content knowing that we know everything that will happen before it does. How can a movie be fine with its own predictability? Because director James Mangold knows that he has Tom Cruise smiling. Movie star quality goes a long way towards making a film work, and this is the type of role we see Cruise having a ball with. Throw in some competent action and the occasional one-liner, and you have exactly what you paid to see: a fun yet disposable summer action comedy.

June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is on a plane to her sister’s wedding, when she bumps into Roy Miller (Tom Cruise). Miller is a charming guy, good-looking, seems interested in her– everything she wants! She goes into the airplane bathroom to fix herself up, and when she comes back out, Miller calmly explains to her that the pilots are dead, and he killed them. She’s thrown headfirst into this secret government agent conflict, where Miller has in his possession an invention called the Zephyr, and both the government and Spanish arms dealers are after Miller, the Zephyr, and the Zephyr’s inventor (Paul Dano). Since Havens got involved from the beginning, Miller feels compelled to keep her along to ensure her safety. Havens finds herself liking this guy, since he goes out of his way to be nice to her– even if he seems totally insane. Is he even the good guy?

This is the type of movie that’s pretty much review-proof: it doesn’t aim to be anything other than formula, and you know whether it’s the type of film you like or not. The dialogue itself is not terribly strong, and the execution of the plot has this horribly annoying device where Miller drugs June so she doesn’t have to experience anything stressful. Thus, we’ll stop in the middle of an exciting action sequence, then return in a safe location with June wearing some new sexy outfit. Why did they do this? Did they run out of budget? Were they just too lazy to see the action through? Where does Miller keep all of these female outfits? June as a character in general is fairly obnoxious– pop question: if a secret agent tells you if you leave the room, you die… would you leave the room? Of course not, but in order to propel the plot forward, she has to act like a lunatic.

The one thing Diaz does provide is good chemistry with Cruise. Even when the plot doesn’t make sense, Mangold knows what will make a film work– movie stars, constantly on screen, exchanging banter and shooting bad guys. Cruise hasn’t had a role that allowed him to smile this much since Jerry Maguire, and it’s nice to see him playing a charmer rather a gritty tortured action hero. To some degree, our knowledge of Cruise’s real life hijinks might be fueling why his earnestness seemed so off-kilter here. Regardless of why it works, it works. Also, few actors could make me believe they could hit on a girl while clinging to the top of a car and shooting bad guys… but Cruise can. The rest of the supporting cast isn’t given much to do (Paul Dano and Marc Blucas have a couple of nice scenes), but at the end of the day, this movie is about one thing. We want to see our movie star shoot up bad guys, win the girl’s heart, and give pretty smiles for the camera. Cruise is one of the few stars who can consistently elevate a movie like this, and after all of the action films this summer that either take themselves too seriously or go for wild improbably CGI-riddled scenes, here’s a movie with no noticeable CGI that doesn’t try too hard. Maybe I’m not expecting enough, and I should be focusing more on its numerous negatives. But then, I think of Tom Cruise smiling while doing crazy stunts… and the problems can be smoothed over.

Note: if you’re not a fan of Tom Cruise, you weren’t going to see this movie anyway… but odds are you should knock at least a full kernel off of my rating.

~ by russellhainline on June 30, 2010.

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