Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Maggie Grace
Patrick O'Neill, James Mangold
20th Century Fox
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Is Tom Cruise finally having fun again?
Ever since Cruise's couch-bouncing escapade with Oprah Winfrey, Cruise has been on the defensive. Between his "excited to be in love" behavior and his occasionally over-the-top defenses of his Scientology beliefs, Cruise's well acknowledged talent as an actor has taken an unfortunate backseat to the actor's offscreen antics.
In Tropic Thunder, Cruise had fun in a cameo that caught most of America off guard and is reportedly leading to a feature film based on Cruise's character in the film. In James Mangold's latest film, Knight and Day, Cruise again seems to be intentionally trying to lighten up his image with as Roy Miller, a smooth talkin' federal agent who has either gone rogue or is having to fend off those who baddies who did.
After spending his last two films with the Oscar bait flicks Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma, Mangold is going a decidedly less serious route with the action-packed, lightly humorous Knight and Day, though one gets the sense that in its original state by screenwriter Patrick O'Neill that the film was infinitely more heavy on romance than action before studio execs likely made a few choice "suggestions."
In the film, Cruise's Roy Miller meets up with Diaz's June in a Wichita airport as June is headed out for a family wedding and Cruise is seemingly on the lam from someone or something. In one of the film's many absurd set-ups, the two end up on a nearly empty plane with the exception of a few men scattered throughout the aircraft. Before long, June is in the restroom changing while an undetected Roy is offing everyone on the plane including both pilots before himself crash landing the plane and imploring upon June to follow him for her own safety.
Effective? Surprisingly so.
Much of the success of Knight and Day depends upon the chemistry and charisma of both Cruise and Diaz.
Need I really say more?
Love him or hate him, Cruise has a magnetic screen presence and Knight and Day is the best looking and best acting we've seen Cruise in quite some time. This is the Cruise that America fell in love with in the beginning...funny, charming, attractive and confident with just enough humanity to keep him from seeming conceited. It doesn't hurt that both Cruise and Diaz project an easy chemistry with one another that turns what could have easily been a predictable "meet cute" flick into a surprisingly entertaining AND predictable "meet cute" flick.
Mangold and O'Neill wisely don't dumb down Diaz's June, an intelligent woman whose brains contribute to the joy of watching her become overwhelmed in this larger-than-life situation. Diaz is vulnerable enough to make us feel for her character, while projecting enough strength that it's easy to buy into the idea that over the course of the film she becomes surprisingly adept at sticking up for herself.
As is virtually always true in these sorts of action comedies, Miller has something that someone else wants and that someone else will do nearly anything to acquire it. In this case, Cruise gets to go back into hero mode by serving as protector to both June and the inventor of an endless energy battery called "zephyr," Simon Feck (a delightful Paul Dano) against a fellow federal agent who may or may not be the real rogue agent, Fitz (Peter Sarsgaard), and the agency's chief (Viola Davis).
There's no denying that much of Knight and Day is predictable and formulaic, and those of you who've grown weary of Cruise's poser shtick aren't likely to suddenly become Cruise fans after catching Knight and Day. Yet, there are an abundance of scenes in the film that are a pure cinematic delight ranging from a motorcycle chase through the streets of Sevilla, Spain complete with a "running of the bulls" to a couple of delightful scenes involving Miller's parents, who seem to find themselves the recipient of an absurd amount of luck.
Knight and Day would have been even more entertaining had the film centered more on romance and less on the unnecessary action that occasionally penetrates the film's overall warm and fuzzy nature. Cruise and Diaz have a marvelous chemistry, and even amidst an ever rising body count Cruise remains unquestionably more appealing than he's been on the big screen in years.
While Knight and Day is by no means brilliant cinema, it's an easygoing, lightly romantic date flick cut from the same cloth as Killers but with actual heart, laughs and characters you'll genuinely care about by the end of the film.
Welcome back, Tom. Here's hoping you stay off the couches and stick around for awhile!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic