Knight and Day

Starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, and Jordi Molla). Directed by James Mangold.
Rated M (Action violence, infrequent coarse language and drug references). 109 min.

Tom Cruise is back again as action hero in this comedy drama, in which he appears for the second time with Cameron Diaz, after their time together in “Vanilla Sky” (2001). The plot basically represents a series of happenings, loosely strung together, that allow relentless action.

Super-spy Roy Miller (Cruise) and June Havens (Diaz), who is en route to her sister’s wedding, bump into each other at an airport, not accidentally. Havens is off-loaded from her flight to find herself on Miller’s plane after Miller has slipped her a secret device (a battery, code-named Zephyr, that has incredible power, and which everybody wants to own). He used her to get the device past airport security. Roy is attacked on the plane by the passengers and crew, who are all assassins, while June is in the bathroom. He kills all of them, and Havens is now his unwitting accomplice. Miller crash-lands the plane, and feels an obligation to protect her. The people pursuing them for the Zephyr are mainly the CIA, Roy’s double-crossing ex-partner (Peter Sarsgaard), and a continental arms dealer (Jordi Molla), and the chases occur at high speed through exotic locations in Europe. Live-action stunt work characterizes a series of adventures through Austria, the Caribbean and Spain. In Seville, thinking itself Pamplona at Festival time for the moment, a classic car chase is given an original twist by the inclusion of bulls running through the city’s streets. While mayhem exists throughout, Diaz and Cruise manage to maintain the part of would-be romancers, and they do it with considerable flair.  

The film is short on character development and logical plot line, and it really doesn’t matter. The movie is essentially a fun piece for fast action in which the stunt work is choreographed tightly. The logic behind the plot line is almost totally elusive, and it strains credibility that Havens is drugged time and time again to help Miller get her out of trouble. Overall, the film is popular entertainment geared for those looking for a buzz, and Cruise and Diaz give it all they have. The chemistry between Cruise and Diaz is excellent, and while nothing much eventuates on screen, the tensions of a relationship between them constantly hang in the air. June doesn’t know whether, or not, Roy is on the right side of the law, and only learns the answer to that question towards the end of the movie. The film is a maze of double-crosses and unlikely escapes, and in the ensuing roller coaster game some witty one-liners are used to glue  the happenings together.

The potential impact of the violence in the movie is weakened by the way in which Mangold, as Director, aims for comic effect. After being stabbed in the chest, for example, a hapless agent extracts the knife himself, and fights on, to the accompaniment of witty dialogue from those around him. Although Diaz is drugged repeatedly in the film, she wakes to find herself either constrained, or needing to escape, amidst more comic banter. The film clearly aims for light, escapist fantasy. Cruise plays the role of the unflappable spy, who doesn’t care what danger he is in, and Diaz is dragged into going along with him for the ride.

June likes Roy, but is confused about why, and never knows exactly with whom she has got herself involved. A number of times, Cruise seems to play at being James Bond, but in this film Bond and the girl he is with are both important. Roy and June eventually accept each other in the knowledge that they themselves are the only people who can be trusted, and romance is settled finally by June taking Roy in hand.    

There is no intense, dramatic acting in this film. While Cruise and Diaz play their parts with most of the stops out, they provide star appeal for a fun night out. The film won’t re-instate Cruise’s acting career, but he carries on the “Mission Impossible” tradition with a style that is enjoyably tongue-in-cheek. This is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it entertains as a result.

Twentieth Century Fox.   Out July 15, 2010

Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.


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