Tom Cruise used to be the personification of “badass.” He struggled to become the best pilot he could be in Top Gun, he overcame the impossible in Mission: Impossible and of course, he tackled a dystopian future in Minority Report. But it seems like the action-hero has aged quite poorly and these days he’s tackling more Lord Xenu during his studies in the Church of Scientology than corrupt syndicates that he was so quite used to. But the James Mangold helmed Knight and Day promised to change the swaying public opinion of Cruise from lunatic to an action hero once again. And although the film does sport a performance which showcases Cruise’s natural charisma, it does little less as it progressively loses its charm during its 110 minute running time.
Knight and Day, which co-stars Cameron Diaz as June Havens, starts off quite innocently. We are introduced to Cruise’s character, Roy Miller, as he spies on a couple of unsuspecting young ladies at an airport. During his surveillance, his eyes catch a glimpse of Ms. Havens, who is eagerly awaiting her sister’s wedding. The two bump into each other (by “accident” of course) and exchange a few words before parting. However, this is not the last time that the two see each other as they once again meet while boarding an airplane. But something goes wrong with Havens’ ticket and she isn’t allowed onboard to which Miller tells her, quite ominously, “Sometimes, things happen for a reason.”
But “miraculously”, she gets onboard and the stewardess apologizes for the error. Havens then approaches Miller and starts airplane small talk. During their conversation, there is a bit of turbulence which spills Havens’ drink on her. Pardoning herself, she heads off to wash up in the restroom. Upon the door closing, the action begins. As Havens is freshening up, the remaining passengers attack Roy, who takes them out simultaneously. This, however, comes at a price, as he accidently kills the two pilots. Following the incident, Roy lands the plane in an abandoned field and Havens’ and Miller’s adventure begins. He drugs her and she wakes up in her bedroom, confused as to how she got there. Miller tells her not to mention him as there are “bad people” after him, and to bring to light his whereabouts, would put both him and her in life-threatening danger.
Along with Cruise and Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard stars in Knight and Day playing Fitzgerald, a CIA agent who is put to the task of capturing and subduing Miller, whose intentions are not revealed until the second half of the film. Sarsgaard brings his signature creepiness and anti-likability to the role and is simply another “take no nonsense” agent who seems to be hiding something up his sleeve. There is absolutely nothing memorable in his performance.
The same can be said for Diaz, whose character is the cookie-cutter klutz who is thrown into a dangerous situation. Havens is not interesting in the least and becomes quite the annoyance. This becomes problematic during the second half of act two, when her character becomes as prevalent as Cruise’s (who serves as the film’s only saving grace). There is slight chemistry in Havens and Miller’s relationship; however, judging that this is an action-film and not a romantic-comedy, the two seem more like potential lovers than a dynamic duo.
But Cruise is simply immaculate. He performed most of his own stunts and his character is simply the most likable of the whole cast. There is a mix of Cruise’s performances in Top Gun and Mission: Impossible that can be found in Miller, and his lines seemed to be the only ones that hit home in the comedy department.
James Mangold, who is no stranger to hits like 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line, has a fatal misstep with Knight and Day, a film that starts off promisingly but continuously relies more and more on Cruise’s performance to succeed. It’s purely formulaic and there is no sense of surprise or thrill in the paper-thin plot. However, the action sequences which have Cruise once again shooting up baddies are enjoyable enough to warrant at least a rental from fans of the once-great action legend (it’s also approved for scientologists).