Thursday, December 16, 2010

Knight and Day: Grade C

Knight and Day (2010)

Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Paul Dano, Peter Sarsgaard; Director James Mangold.

Cruise is some kind of a government spy “gone rogue” because he is trying to protect a young inventor (Dano) and his world-changing invention, basically a better D-sized battery. “The government” (FBI or NSA or CIA – it’s not clear, but does it matter?), led by Sarsgaard, and an endless supply of wide-shouldered, sunglass-wearing G-men and black SUVs, is after him, to reclaim the D-battery, and as a late afterthought, the boy genius as well.

Cruise uses a perfect stranger in an airport (Diaz) to mule the battery through security (although it is not clear why she would get it through if he couldn’t, but that’s not the point). On the plane, a half dozen passengers (all of them) turn out to be baddies and attempt to kill Cruise, but he dispatches them all, and the evil pilots of the plane too, all of this while Diaz is in the bathroom. The best part of the movie is when she comes out to an apparently peaceful plane and he must explain that he had to kill everyone and now must land the plane. She takes it as a joke (at first). Both actors lay on their best charm here, and the relationship develops.

As a relationship movie, really a romantic comedy, it works in the first third. Both actors are photogenic and Cruise really puts out a good comic performance. His acting is as good (at times) as in the overlooked 2004 film, Collateral. He really can act if a director puts the thumbscrews on him.

However, the filmmakers soon retreat from the relationship story and devolve into predictable gunfights and exploding vehicles. There are planes (both fixed wing and rotary), cars, trucks, car-carrying trucks, SUVs of course, boats, trains and motorcycles. Everything must blow up! Between explosive chases, hooded men dressed in black rappel down ropes into omnipresent deserted warehouses to face additional gunbattles (and slaughter – their bullets all miss, none of his do). It’s all cliché schlock, but I have to say the production values are high and the photography is very good. Music, of course, is very noisy.

There are structural similarities to the 2005 movie, Mr & Mrs Smith, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. This movie has more going for it than that one ever did. Despite mind-numbing repetition, an incoherent story line, and unimaginative visuals, there is just enough wit in the relationship between the two principals to leaven mud into mudpies, and enough acting to keep you watching. For mindless pleasure, it's not that bad.

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