MOVIE REVIEW: Knight and Day


In the last five years, in the court of public opinion, Tom Cruise has come to define the term "outspoken."  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "outspoken" as "spoken or expressed without reserve."  Tom Cruise has always been vane and stalwart in his opinions making him a little inaccessible to his adoring public, unless he's selling a movie.  However, when you combine his 2005 couch-jumping, his unabashed opinions on chemical imbalance and depression from the same year, with his ever-present Scientology viewpoints, "outspoken" is an understatement.  To many, the biggest and most bankable movie star in the world has become his own hot-button topic that no one wants to touch, and it's more than starting to affect business.

The question I pose is can you, as a movie watcher, separate the actor from the man?  Can you separate his views from his work?  Can you watch a Tom Cruise movie and not think of, well, Tom Cruise?  The same can be said nowadays for Angelina Jolie and Mel Gibson, whose personal lives and views have become bigger than their movie careers.  

I, for one, can separate the actor and his work from the man and his views.  I enjoy Tom Cruise movies, new and old, because they are fun, exciting, well-made, and frequently well-acted. Top Gun, Cocktail, and Days of Thunder will always be shameless guilty pleasures of mine.  I equally respect his dramatic range in films like Born on the Fourth of July and The Last Samurai, along with the more grown-up shows he put up in Minority Report and Collateral.   I don't let the persona ruin a good show and I won't boycott a good movie just because there's an unlikable person starring in it.

That is the hump audiences have to get over when they watch a movie like Knight and Day, because it's a Tom Cruise movie in every shape and form.  His well-known smile, charm, and penchant for action are all over the movie.  If you can't separate the man from actor, you will probably not get into the movie.  If you can, you're in for a very good action treat with Knight and Day. That's also if you can shut your brain off to believable storytelling. 

In Knight and Day, Cruise plays the mysterious Roy Miller who runs into (actually, it's the other way around) the clumsy June Havens (Diaz) in a "Meet Cute" scene at a Wichita airport.  They end up sharing a plan ride to Boston together where June thinks she's met a dreamy guy, and then one trip to the plane bathroom changes everything.  While June is powdering her nose and talking herself up to make a move on Roy, the rest of the seemingly normal passengers and crew attack Roy, all of which are disposed of in balletic action fashion.  When June comes out of the bathroom and makes her move, she slowly realizes what has happened and soon Roy is piloting the plane to a crash landing.

After the crash, June wakes up conveniently in her Boston home as if nothing has happened, but soon finds that Miller's former associates, led by Agent Fitzgerald (Peter Saargard of Flightplan and Jarhead), think she's in cahoots with Roy, who turns out to be a rogue CIA spy who has supposedly stolen a new sustainable battery energy source that can change the world.  June doesn't know who to believe, but can't shake the charm of Roy.  When he helps free her from the suits via the hood of a car in a stunning chase scene, they begin a globe-trotting journey to find the battery's missing inventor (Paul Dano from Little Miss Sunshine), prevent a Spanish arms dealer from acquiring the battery, and keep Agent Fitzgerald and his men off their tails.  

With all of these twists, turns, and frequent mood and setting changes, Knight and Day comes across as confused to what kind of movie it wants to be.  Is director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) making an action comedy combining Diaz's ditzy character's flustered situation with Cruise's swagger?  Is it a stunt-filled, 007-lite action movie with Diaz as the necessary babe and Cruise jumping cars, riding motorcycles, killing thugs with automatic weapons, and knocking out nameless henchman with single blows (ala, coincidentally since his Goldmember cameo, Austin Powers)?  For example, in one minute we learn Roy's humble and somewhat tragic origin and in the next minute Cameron Diaz is power-sliding muscle cars.  In another, a super spy's mini-helicopter stashed on an island in the Azores has the gas to make it to the Austrian Alps?

Don't get me wrong.  The action outweighs caring about the story's implausibility.  Like I said, shut your brain off and enjoy the great fireworks.  When you compare this movie to crap like Killers or the overdone CGI stunts of other movies, it's truly fun to watch Tom do his own thing.  The motorcycle scenes you see in the previews through the streets of Seville are particularly amazing.  While Cruise is starting to show a little age (in case you forgot, he's 47 years old and Top Gun will be 25 years old next summer) here and there, he's not slowing down.  Few movie stars do stunt work like this anymore and get their hands dirty, so to speak.  I'd say that list is maybe just Will Smith and dashes of Matt Damon from the Bourne series.  I'll gladly take Tom Cruise over Adam Sandler, Chris Tucker, and even 300's Gerard Butler, who were the other rumored actors to play the Roy Miller character over the years it took to get Knight and Day made.

Cruise and Diaz, reunited for the first time since the far-different Vanilla Sky from 2001, have extremely good chemistry and play off each other very well.  That chemistry, which lacked for Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl in Killers, elevates the meandering and implausible action plot.  However, in a lot of ways, we've seen these versions of Tom and Cameron before, over and over, in fact.  When does Cameron Diaz not play the ditzy blond with occasional attitude?  When is Tom Cruise not the action star playing the action star?  When you have those two tendencies and archetypes in mind, the eye-rolling moments might add up.  Nevertheless, take a matinee and enjoy the thrills!

LESSON #1: LEARN WHO TO TRUST AND THEN SHARE THAT TRUST-- Trust is earned, not given in this world.  While it may be difficult and take time, find out who you can trust and who you cannot.  Keep those around who earn it.  Much like June, find out who the real Roy Miller is for you.  At the same time, once you have that trust, share it.  If someone trusts you, you should share that trust in them in return.  They, and you, have earned that mutual respect.

LESSON #2: LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE YOU TRUST-- To go a little further with that first lesson, if that person you trust says don't touch something, don't do it.  If they tell you the best way to do something, listen, trust them, and do it that way.  You trust your significant others, partners, spouses, and even your parents for a reason.  Now just listen and do!  Double these efforts if safety and survival are involved.  If I had a dollar for every time June doesn't listen to Roy, the movie wouldn't be making any money at the box office.  Still, Roy could probably hear June's rambling out a little too.

LESSON #3: DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE THE FIRST MOVE-- While Cameron Diaz's character maybe be the flustered normal girl brought into a world of action, danger, and espionage, she definitely takes the bull by the horns on several occasions, not just romantically.  Proactive commonly beats reactive.  If there's something that needs to be done, don't wait and go for it.  If there's something you want, make a move.  If you don't, you might be waiting a while for your next chance or the situation will change where it can't be accomplished.