Knight and Day

Knight and Day poster

B

There are many reasons to dismiss Knight and Day after watching the trailer. Number one is that, on the surface, Knight and Day feels like just another jet-fueled explosion in the newly played out romantic-action-comedy genre. But my motivation to purchase a ticket was the name at the bottom of the poster — James Mangold.

Mangold is an interesting choice to direct this film. His filmography is, for the most part, comprised of character-driven dramas: the gritty conspiracy tale Copland, the under-appreciated indie Heavy, and Girl, Interrupted for which Angelina Jolie received an Oscar. None of these films scream summer blockbuster. Even so, Mangold is no stranger to box-office surplus; he directed the popular Walk the Line, which brought another little gold man to an actor working for him. His most recent effort was 3:10 to Yuma, which did see him tackle a more traditional action film, and he handled it well: 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Another obstacle Knight and Day has to overcome is the premier name on the marquee — Tom Cruise. Let’s face it, the majority of us think he’s a bit loose with the marbles. The couch jumping, PPD knocking and Dianetics thumping has not brightened his reputation. It’s easier to dismiss his off-screen antics as eccentricities and give him another chance, because, in the end, he is likable and charismatic. And, he can act.

OK, once were in the seat, does any of that matter? No. All we care about is, “Am I entertained?” This is where Knight and Day succeeds. The plot of the movie can succinctly and sufficiently be summarized as such: An apparent good guy steals an world-changing perpetual energy source and bad guys want it. That’s it. Along the way, said good guy’s motives are questioned and he falls in love with his female sidekick.

The plot doesn’t break any new ground, substitute “perpetual energy source” for just about anything and you have the foundation for every action movie ever made. The secret to Knight and Day is Roy Miller (Cruise). He carries the movie with his charm and likability. Miller’s nonchalance in the most extreme situations — racing down the freeway and jumping from a motorcycle onto the hood of a car, and simply saying, “Hi, June,” with a smile upon impact — drives the movie’s most humorous moments. June (Cameron Diaz) is a beautiful tomboy who’s just the right mixture of tough and tender. She wears black leather motorcycle boots while being fitted for a bridesmaid dress and restores old muscle cars for a living, but isn’t so tough that machine gun fire and explosions don’t cause her to tear up.

Within the first 20 minutes there’s a plane crash and a furious and delightful freeway car chase. Mangold doesn’t bore us with a long string of exposition. We don’t care how the energy source was made, or how it was stolen. We know there are bad guys chasing the guy we like and that’s it. The action is well directed, the editing is tight. The camera lingers for longer than a few seconds during the action sequences, allowing the audience to fully grasp the surroundings. We’re not obfuscated by the hyper-kinetic cut, cut, cut used in today’s action films. Transformers, I’m looking at you.

By the time the third act screeches around the corner, despite being thoroughly entertained, the constant back and forth between June and Roy and the lack of subplots begins to drain. I might have snipped off a car chase or gun fight if it was me. But if you can forget to hate Tom Cruise for a couple hours and you enjoy copious amounts of bullets and explosions and don’t mind hearing the line, “I got this” repeated over and over, then you’ll get your money’s worth.

Directed by James Mangold

Starring: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

tags: cameron diaz, james mangold, knight and day, tom cruise

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