Mark Reviews Movies

KNIGHT AND DAY

2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Mollà, Viola Davis, Paul Dano

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language)

Running Time: 1:50

Release Date: 6/23/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 22, 2010

There's a sequence in Knight and Day that firmly establishes where its focus lies. In it, June Havens (Cameron Diaz), a hapless bystander turned accomplice in a battle between a rogue agent, a nameless, super-secret government intelligence agency, and a Spanish arms dealer, is drugged by Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), the rogue agent from before.  In her dazed, disoriented haze, she awakens every so often as Roy tells her about their situation. At one point, they're in a plane that's being attacked, and as soon as the two jump out, she blacks out again.

It's a defining moment for a movie that has, until this point, assembled a series of pretty decent action sequences. Here, screenwriter Patrick O'Neill asserts, is the time we're supposed to realize it's not about the action but about the relationship between June and Roy, an on-again, off-again sort of love/hate relationship almost befitting a romantic comedy, except punctuated by chases by car, motorcycle, and foot.

The scene and the results are off-putting, considering how much time Knight and Day has centered on the action and the usual multi-party conspiracy plot. At this point, we have to make a decision: Is their inflated romance based on bantering amidst gunplay and explosions worth the diverted investment?

The movie starts with a clever gag. Roy and June have a chance meeting in an airport, as they're both about to fly back to Boston—her for her sister's wedding, him to try to escape those looking to kill him. On the plane, they talk about their individual dreams and aspirations of running away to some exotic location to live out the rest of life in a pleasant routine with a great backdrop. In retrospect, their monologues performed as a sentimental score plays on the soundtrack are the first hint that their relationship will take over.

The flight is under-booked, which strikes June as odd, considering she was almost bumped from it. She runs to the restroom, analyzing their conversation, while Roy is attacked from all, claustrophobic sides by the remaining passengers. He uses the seat belt as a weapon, the cushion as a shield, and an oxygen mask as a garrote to fight off and kill his assailants, including the pilots. June returns, spotting Roy with two drinks in his hand, and the moment earns a pretty nice laugh of recognition of their disconnected expectations for the gesture. So do the conversations before and after an emergency landing in a cornfield, where Roy tells June to be on the lookout for men in suits asking about him, deny she ever met him, and never, ever get into a car with these men.

The movie requires that June ignore this advice and every other piece of sound instruction Roy gives to her, otherwise the plot would never run. Here, Roy possesses a battery, the "only perpetual energy-generating source other than the sun" (A statement that's ludicrously wrong as is and wrong even if you buy the analogy, but then again, it's within a movie with a title that's only half a pun), and it can power a small town. Another government spook (Peter Sarsgaard) and a Spanish weapons dealer (Jordi Mollà) want the revolutionary power source or the kid who made it (Paul Dano), who tags along for the second half of Roy and June's escapades.

The action sequences work, in spite of some shoddy green screen effects, primarily because of director James Mangold's fusion of a matter-of-fact, almost dismissive tone, emphasized by Cruise's effortless nonchalant attitude while executing stunts and shooting waves of bad guys.

Roy is a tricky character—part charmer, part master manipulator (After shooting him, Roy convinces June's ex it'll be for the best). The latter is the difficult facet, considering how this translates into his relationship with June. June starts a dreamy dreamer, turns into a screaming damsel in distress, makes a shift into willing apprentice, and starts to fight her own fights. As the movie's focus turns to Roy and June, she is the hub, although each and every action she makes is dependent on what the script needs of her. Diaz is appealing enough in the role, but it isn't enough to divert attention away from how much of a pawn of the story June is. In typical romantic comedy fashion, her change toward independence is entirely based on Roy's requirements for what she ought to be.

The movie is entertaining enough in its opening sections, as O'Neill and Mangold play just enough with expectations. By the time Knight and Day establishes its real intentions and the plot begins to ride its preordained rails, that sense of playfulness is muted for the ordinary.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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