Frothy Knight and Day a Bubby Bit of Fun
On her way back to Boston, June Havens (Cameron Diaz) bumps into a sexy, confident man calling himself Roy Miller (Tom Cruise). But what appears to be a chance meeting is in reality anything but, this seemingly charming nobody actually a rogue government agent who was clandestinely using the bubbly blonde to currier an item through airport security.
Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise fire away in Knight and Day
That should have been the end of it, but unfortunately the guy most doggedly on Millerís tail, a fellow agent going by the moniker Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), sees the woman as a potential threat, forcing his primary prey to go into overdrive in order to protect her. Next thing June knows sheís trotting around the globe dodging bullets with a guy people in her own government claim to be insane, completely unsure which way is up or why in the name that is all decent and pure sheís starting to fall in love with him.
Even though Patrick O'Neillís original screenplay doesnít even make a cursory attempt at trying to make a lick of sense, James Mangoldís (Copland, Walk the Line) foray into romantic action and comedy Knight and Day is one heck of a lot of fun. From the word go I was caught up within its eccentric froth, the whole thing reminding me of relatively similar French fare like Francis Veberís classic 1986 effort Les Fugitifs or Claude Zidiís 1991 hit La Totale! (itself the basis for James Cameronís True Lies).
But this devil may care style of narrative might not be what audiences are expecting. For all the explosions, gunfire and CGI-enhanced vehicular carnage, this movie is very much a comedy, the focus squarely on the banter and byplay going on between a driven Miller and an increasingly befuddled June. It is lunacy - smartly written, consistently engaging and wittily delivered but still lunacy - for the sake of lunacy, and for those walking in expecting a romantic take on The Bourne Identity then they've got another thing coming.
While not what I expected either, for my part I had a total blast watching Mangold and company go hog wild. The movie moves extremely well with very few lulls or dry spots, and for a guy who showcased a somewhat solid ability to stage shootouts in his remake of 3:10 to Yuma he expands on that talent multiple times over with this. A chase sequence on a train is both suspenseful and jovial, the whole thing culminating in a humdinger flurry of fisticuffs and link sausage I eagerly consumed. A later moment involving a motorcycle, a pack of chasing cars and the running of bulls in Pamplona is a kinetic hoot, and even though I realized it was all utterly implausible that didnít mean I enjoyed myself any less.
Itís not all smooth running, however. Sarsgaardís bad guy is almost a total non-presence, the veteran character actor wasted in a nothing role. A secondary antagonist portrayed by Jordi Mollŗ doesnít fare a heck of a lot better, diminishing the stakes for the heroes to a noticeably high degree. The movie also works best when it stays focused on Juneís frazzled perspective. Whenever it strays from her the narrative things canít help but lag, a good portion of the last act feeling disjointed and out of sorts until the filmmakers come to their collective senses and let the viewers see things through her eyes once again.
She does so many horrible, almost unbearably unwatchable films (i.e. The Sweetest Thing, What Happens in Vegas, Charlieís Angels: Full Throttle) I tend to forget how much I like Diaz when she gets into the right role. The four-time Golden Globe nominee is every bit as enchanting here as sheís ever been, reuniting with Cruise for the second time (they appeared in Vanilla Sky together) one of the best things thatís ever happened for her. Watching Diaz romp around the world chasing danger and avoiding death is bliss itself, the two stars making the very most of their sizzling and sexually charged chemistry.
As for Cruise, while Iíve never been a huge fan of the man off-screen on it heís always held a place in my heart few other cinematic superstars can claim. From Risky Business to Top Gun, Rain Man to Born on the Fourth of July, Collateral to Tropic Thunder, Iím not ashamed to admit Iíve enjoyed nearly every performance this guy has ever given. In full Cary Grant mode (allusions to Charade are virtually unavoidable) Knight and Day proves to be no exception, and even when things were going awry thanks to both he and Diaz the smile they planted on my face at the start never once vanished.
Iím not going to say Mangold is a great director, but I think at this point it can be agreed heís quickly turning into a quite good one capable of jumping from genre to genre with relative ease. The through line running between Heavy, Girl, Interrupted, Kate & Leopold, Identity and the rest of the films already mentioned is a tenuous one, the only connecting tissue the director who has done his best (to admittedly varying results) to make this disparate group resonate in some way for mass audiences.
I think Knight and Day is the filmmakerís most entertaining effort yet. While I think an argument can be made that Walk the Line is still his best film, I can tell you this is the entry in his oeuvre I would choose to watch again if somebody held a gun to my head and forced me to choose just one. Itís light, frothy and hugely enjoyable on a multitude of levels, the entertainment value here so incredibly high it practically soars.
Film Rating: ÍÍÍ (out of 4)