Throughout his career, Tom Cruise has become a superstar playing the charming leading man in dramas and action films. He was never known as a comedian, and despite a cameo in Goldmember
, is not known for comedy. However, when Cruise became more known for his affiliation with Scientology and increasingly erratic behavior (such as jumping up and down on Oprah's couch), he decided to revive his ailing fortunes with a hearty dose of laughter. Appearing as the overweight and overbearing Les Grossman in Ben Stiller's hilarious Tropic Thunder
(where Cruise managed to top Robert Downey Jr. playing a black man), Cruise went from weirdo to a box office draw again overnight. Now we get Knight and Day
, where Cruise lampoons his own action persona. Can this mix of action and comedy prove to be another hit for Cruise?
June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is at the airport, trying to get to her sister's wedding. While there, she bumps into Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), a charismatic man who entrances her. Despite some issues, she manages to get onto the plane, only to discover it's almost empty except for herself, Roy, and a few scattered passengers. The two hit it off, and as June goes into the bathroom to freshen up, every other person on the plane attacks Roy, forcing him to kill them all, pilots included. After a rocky landing, Roy rescues June and sends her on her way, reminding her to tell no one what happened. However, that's difficult when Special Agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) comes looking for her, prompting Roy to save her, whether she wants it or not.
Knight and Day runs off of a fun premise: What if a regular person kept running into a secret agent at odds with his employers? The trailers certainly played up the humorous aspects, showing Cruise mocking his regular persona, with hilarious lines like "If anyone follows us I'll shoot myself and then her!" The film initially holds to this idea, especially on the plane as they contrast Roy's killing spree to June's bathroom pep talk. But as the film goes on, the movie drifts into standard action mode. We get glamorous locales, hand to hand fights, and big explosions, but the laughs sink to the bottom. It's not that the movie tries to be funny throughout and fails. The jokes simply seem to disappear as the plot forces its way onto the scene.
Cruise could probably sleepwalk through a role like this, so dependent it is on his effortless charisma and screen presence. And while he doesn't phone it in, he doesn't really pull out all the stops either. Yes, he is effortlessly charismatic, but he's done that in far better movies than this. Cameron Diaz looks like a California Raisin and continually makes me wonder how she managed to keep her career going after The Mask and There's Something About Mary (the only two movies I've ever enjoyed her in). You could have cast almost any other major actress in the role and the movie would have been better for it (except for Julia Roberts, perhaps the most annoying leading lady in Hollywood history). Peter Sarsgaard could have sunk his teeth into his role as Fitzgerald, but instead plays the character at a distance, almost like he's too good for a movie like this (which, frankly he is).
I've yet to see a James Mangold movie I could wholeheartedly recommend, and while Knight and Day
is the best he's done yet (I was not a fan of Walk The Line
, despite loving Johnny Cash), it's still far too uneven to really click. Aside from the tonal changes (the humor is undercut by a few instances of severe violence), there's also some shoddy CGI that makes the whole thing look cheap. I don't know if some of this was intentional, to recall the cheesy feeling of late-60's James Bond, but it doesn't play here, especially since the movie seems to take itself a little too seriously for a comedy.
Ultimately Knight and Day is a film with a lot of promise and not much to show for it. Cruise is always fun to watch (let the naysayers whine, he's a superstar for a reason), but you'll have a much better time throwing Mission: Impossible (the first or third, your choice) on or even the aforementioned Tropic Thunder. I'm not saying you should avoid Knight and Day at all costs, but I have a feeling that it's the kind of movie that people will enjoy more if they catch it on cable by accident one night instead of paying their money to see it in the theater.