Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Movie Review: Knight and Day

Knight and Day ***
Directed by:
James Mangold.
Written By: Patrick O'Neill.
Starring: Tom Cruise (Roy Miller), Cameron Diaz (June Havens), Peter Sarsgaard (Fitzgerald), Jordi MollĂ  (Antonio), Viola Davis (Director George), Paul Dano (Simon Feck), Falk Hentschel (Bernhard), Marc Blucas (Rodney), Lennie Loftin (Braces), Maggie Grace (April Havens), Rich Manley (Danny), Dale Dye (Frank Jenkins), Celia Weston (Molly).

I have called Tom Cruise a lot of things since he went crazy on his promotional tour for War of the Worlds in 2005 announcing his love for Katie Holmes everywhere he went (batshit crazy being the most common), but I have never called him stupid. Cruise has always been very conscience of his image, and after he got ridiculed, he has done his best to try and rehabilitate himself in the public’s eye. But judging on his performance in Knight and Day, and his ever popular work in Tropic Thunder, I think Cruise may have found his new niche – playing characters who are as batshit insane and intense as he is.

In Knight and Day, Cruise plays Roy Miller a former government agent gone rogue. At an airport in Wichita Kansas he literally bumps into June (Cameron Diaz) twice. They talk, they flirt she thinks they share a connection, and they two end up on the same nearly deserted flight to Boston together. When she goes to the bathroom on the flight, he has to kill everyone else on the plane – including the pilots – because they are all government agents out to kill him and recover whatever it is he has that they want. They end up crash landing in a cornfield, where Miller drugs June and she wakes up in her own bed in Boston the next morning. It all seems too crazy to her to be real, but she tries to go about her life as normal – but that’s when Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) shows up, tells her that Miller has gone crazy, and offers to protect her if she will help them get what they want – something called the zephyr. But, of course, Miller soon shows up as well, kills a bunch of people, and takes June along for the ride.

The plot twists and turns from there, and we are never quite sure if Miller really has gone insane, or if he is telling the truth. The entire movie is pretty much told from June’s point of view, so on their globetrotting adventures (which seemingly all happen within a couple of days), she is constantly being drugged and waking up somewhere new, with new people trying to kill her and Miller.

The movie is directed by James Mangold, one of those directors who goes through his career making quality movies, but is pretty much impossible to pin done. Among his films are the police drama Cop Land, the chick flick Girl, Interrupted, the horror film Identity, the country music biopic Walk the Line and the western 3:10 to Yuma. There isn’t much connecting these various movies, except that they are all quality movies. I wouldn’t call any of them great, but they all accomplish what they set out to do. Mangold is talented behind the camera and knows how to shoot action sequences – something that cannot be said for many other action filmmakers. If Mangold is a journeyman filmmaker, he is at least a talented one. The action sequences in this movie do not fall into the Michael Bay trap of cutting so rapidly that you cannot tell what the hell is going on. And while they are as impossible as anything I have seen in an action movie, they at least seem plausible while you are watching the movie. In the various car chases, and gun battles, there actually does seem to be something on the line, and he choreographs it all wonderfully well. I will always prefer this type of action to the shaky camera, rapid edit style of action filmmaking that seems to dominate the current thinking of action filmmakers.

But the main reason why Knight and Day works is because of Cruise and Diaz. Cruise has always been a charming actor, and here he really turns on the juice. You like him right away, partly because he is Tom Cruise, and partly because although you think he is insane at certain points, he is always likable. Diaz is our surrogate into this strange world, and does a fine job as well. The movie is smart to know that no matter how good looking Cruise is, if someone like him showed up in your life and starting killing everyone, you would want to run for it – an instinct that she keeps most of the way through the movie even while she’s falling for him. The supporting cast is fine, but underused. Sarsgaard is a typical government bad guy, Viola Davis the typical government bureaucrat, Paul Dano the typical nerdy scienctist and Jordi Molia plays the role he always plays – evil criminal. They are fine, but I wonder if they really needed to cast such talented actors in such nothing roles.

Knight and Day has no allusions that it is anything more than what it is – an entertaining action/romance/comedy. It reminded me of Midnight Run, with a gender twist, or Stanley Donen’s Charade, or Jonathan Demme’s underrated remake The Truth About Charlie. It isn’t quite as good as any of those movie (well, maybe Charlie), but it’s a fine example of its genre. It keeps you entertained from beginning to end – and for a summer movie isn’t that all you really expect from it?

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