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Knight and Day

In entertainment, familiar faces and concepts delivering a familiar product, such as a romantic action comedy film, can often be a welcome escape. Especially in a summer riddled with sequels and remakes, it’s quite refreshing to know that what you’ll get is a film that can stand alone, free from any franchise connections or adaptation trepidations. Such is the case with James Mangold’s latest film featuring two leads who have both experienced random success in a variety of genres. Regardless of how these two leads are currently received by viewers, this is enJuneable summer fun that careens at breakneck speed with a smile.

At the Witchita airport, we meet carburetor enthusiast June Havens (Cameron Diaz), on her way to her sister’s (Maggie Grace) wedding where she literally bumps into the charming and mysterious Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) -- twice.

Of course, sparks fly as the two flirt in typical meet cute fashion. But while Diaz is flashing her aw-shucks cheeky grin and batting her baby blues, Cruise subtly emotes something we can’t put our finger on…is he a little off or just playing hard to read? The jury is still out as we see both of them conveniently board the same plane, yet hardly anyone is on it. How strange.

The next thing we know, a shocked June comes out of the lavatory to find everyone onboard dead, including the pilots….except Roy. He calmly explains it’s all his doing and that everything is under control, he’s just gonna make his way into the cockpit and see about landing. Yes, there’s more to Roy than he is letting on and the audience is privy to more information than poor June is, as we see her unintentionally paired with a presumably rogue secret agent man.

That may or may not be the truth but one certainty is that Roy knows how to handle himself and take care of June in any life-threatening situation. Sure, he comes across a lil crazed but at least he warns June that there will be goons claiming they are CIA, asking that she come with them, promising her safety. He ensures her just the opposite is true and she soon barely survives to believe it. There are actual CIA agents like Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), who has followed the two since the airport and may have a hidden agenda, unbeknownst to his boss, Director George (Viola Davis), who wants “the situation” resolved immediately.

It would almost seem that without Roy around, the level of craziness would still escalate as fast as the dead bodies seem to be piling up. Plus, June’s firefighter ex-boyfriend, Rodney (Marc Blucas) might be dead instead of nursing a non-fatal bullet wound, if it wasn’t for Roy’s presence. Clearly, the guy is helpful though, as they manage to dodge enemies with aim worse than stormtroopers, leaving colliding vehicles left in their wake.

The variety of gun-toting goons pursuing Roy (and by association June) are after a super-powered device that resembles an ancient Egyptian spark plug. Apparently, this hot item can somehow run an entire city.

Not only is he trying to keep them both alive as they jaunt around the globe, but he’s also trying to protect the brainiac creator of this gadget, Simon (Paul Dano) from biting it as well. It seems everyone in the know is aware Roy has it and he knows they want it. While everyone he comes into contact with is safer, there’s still this feeling that life would be a lot less stressful having never known Roy.

This is a film that could have derailed disastrously at several turns. While it is obvious that certain plot points hinted at will show up later, Mangold (3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line) convinces us to have fun while suspending our disbelief. He maintains just the right tone for the story, never making the film too violent or the humor too low-brow, as composer John Powell’s lilting accordion repeatedly waltzes along.

He may not be known as the go-to guy for action films but Mangold delivers sequences where you can actually follow. There’s no close-cut, shaky cams here, instead clever camera shots are present that allow us to follow along easily.

As far as action rom-coms go, Mangold delivers pure entertainment despite a shoddy script. Patrick O’Neill is credited with writing the film but the script had seen many hands (such as Scott Frank, who wrote the great Out of Sight) before reaching his. Maybe all the glaring plot-holes is a result of too many writers. It did take me a bit to resolve that some silly situations will remain unexplained.

Still, in creating unbelievable situations, the world in which the action is taken place still has to be somewhat believable. It could be that the scatttershot world we see in Knight and Day isn’t standing still long enough to accept logic. That’s okay though since it doesn’t prevent the film from being a good time.

That being said, it’s surprising to me how much hate there is out there for Cruise and Diaz right now. Despite how you feel about them, they do a great job here. Their on-screen chemistry is intact, as are their obvious talents. Both of them are able to balance the necessary comedic-timing with the required nonstop action, in a natural way. Their work feels effortless here, although Cruise comes across like he’s knowingly making fun of his previous action roles and the way the world perceives him.

Be that as it may, it’s no secret that this movie succeeding will definitely help the careers of these two stars. At one point, Chris Tucker and Eva Mendes were signed for these roles and that’s a completely different movie I would not care to see.

The film’s title is admittedly rather odd and only slightly explained in the film as an ineffective plot device. It was previously called Wichita and Trouble Man, so it could’ve been worse. Oddly enough, the American posters seem to communicate something with its whiteout silhouettes, as if any two actors could play these roles. Maybe I’m just looking too much into these images but maybe not showing the faces of Cruise and Diaz will draw more viewers, knowing the fatigue people have with these two. Regardless, I’d bet that these actors have more charisma and talent than Ashton Kutcher and Kathrine Heigl combined.

I’m not sure Knight and Day will do well in what is turning out to be a tepid summer movie season. This is likely to be a movie that people will continuously come back to at some point. It’s certainly more satisfying and funnier than any of the other action-adventures or comedies out now. With what we have to choose from, this is a sure thing.

(This review also appears on David's own website, Keeping It Reel.)

David J. Fowlie

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