Movie Review: Knight and Day (2010)

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Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise in Knight and Day
Photo: 20th Century Fox

James Mangold has quite the diverse list of films to his credit. Looking at a select few, he directed Angelina Jolie to an Oscar win in 1999 with Girl, Interrupted, in 2003 he directed the John Cusack thriller Identity and in 2005 he directed Walk the Line, which led to five Oscar nominations and a win for Reese Witherspoon. His last film was the two-time Oscar nominated western remake 3:10 to Yuma and somehow that all leads up to a raucous action-comedy starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. How did that happen? Your guess is as good as mine, but Mangold has delivered a fun film that makes the most of Cruise’s charisma and, for the most part, delivers the film the trailers promised.

The implausible actioner Knight and Day does it’s best to keep viewers off the scent of what’s really going on, but not in a way that makes for one of those major third act twists as much as it adds a tiny layer of intrigue to the story. Cruise stars as Roy Miller, a man passing himself off as a spy-gone-rogue-for-the-good-of-the-country and in his evasion of the FBI he bumps into June Evans (Diaz), an unwitting participant that eventually becomes more involved as things progress. As a result, Roy and June quite literally end up touring the world from Wichita, Kansas to running with the bulls in Seville, all over the course of 102 minutes of non-stop action.

One of the easier comparisons to make here is to True Lies. Cruise and Diaz’s onscreen relationship mirrors much of how Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis played off one another in the latter stages of James Cameron’s 1994 actioner. This includes Miller’s proficiency in getting out of a jam, Diaz’s hysterics including a wacky gun scene and the use of psychotropic drugs for (continuous) comedic effect.

Additionally, my mind began wandering to To Catch a Thief, comparing the ultimate relationship Cary Grant and Grace Kelly share in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic and the ambiguity of Grant as a retired jewel thief, although the authorities on his tail think otherwise. Cruise’s character here is dealing with the same thing as we are told what he’s doing is the right thing, but the whiff of doubt lingers in the air. While Knight and Day may not be as great as either of those films, it easily bests them both when it comes to taking action to the nonsensical extreme.

Just how exactly do Roy and June get halfway around the world in a matter of onscreen minutes? The answer is a fantastic montage making up the best scene in the film (and one of the better scenes I’ve seen in a summer movie this year), which includes everything from sky-diving to jetting away in a ski boat, but the moments from one mode of transportation to the next are left to the imagination. Mangold isn’t interested in logic with this flick. He places Roy and June in increasingly outlandish scenarios and only about half the time tells us how they get out of them before quickly putting one or both of them immediately back in peril. Of course, as much fun as this is, it also works to the film’s detriment at times.

Knight and Day is action, action, action, peppered with comedy throughout. However, the non-stop action gets a bit tiresome and redundant about midway through. There comes a point where the action needs to stop and the next stage in the story needs to begin. Eventually this film gets there, but not without a bump or two along the way, and in truth the ending comes as little consequence once all is said and done. It’s the ride along the way that matters with this one.

Cruise and Diaz work well together in their second onscreen pairing (Vanilla Sky). Cruise in particular is a blast as he delivers punches like Ethan Hunt and punch-lines in a way we haven’t seen from him before. Knight and Day is over the top from the word “go” and the repartee between the two leads is the film’s strong suit as the story is certainly secondary. Diaz holds her own.

The supporting cast includes Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis as FBI employees on Roy’s tail. Jordi Molla (Bad Boys II) plays an evil weapons dealer and Paul Dano (There Will be Blood) plays an innocent whiz kid inventor whose newest device serves as the centerpiece to the story. To tell you anymore would ruin what little story development there is so I will leave the rest to you.

Mangold does well in terms of piecing together each action sequence, but I think he could have worked with freshman writer Patrick O’Neill to cut an action scene or two and ramp up the storytelling a bit. All-in-all, Knight and Day was a lot of fun and was made up of a lot of well-earned laughs. As far as summer films filled with entertaining nonsense goes this one is a satisfying diversion built for good times and not much more.

GRADE: B