' ' Cinema Romantico: Knight and Day

Monday, June 28, 2010

Knight and Day

Some movies just seem so much better in the frigidness of cineplex air conditioning. It's a hot, humid, sweaty summer afternoon and so you steal away to the theater and sit in the cool and watch a movie with two megawatt stars that has them do what megawatt stars do. They Meet Cute. They banter, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully. They are likely on the run. They engage in any number of the following in any possible order: crash land a plane in a cornfield, get into car chase, fire machine guns, trot to various global locales, get female megawatt star into bikini, drink champagne, discuss MacGuffin, kiss, end movie at place referenced near beginning of movie. So, let's see if James Mangold's "Knight and Day" fits the bill, shall we?

Megawatt Tom Cruise is Roy Miller, a secret agent of the most super kind who Meets Cute with megawatt Cameron Diaz's June Havens a total of three times in about four minutes. First, The Bump Into at an airport, which is directy followed by a second Bump Into, which will be followed by the Heightened Romantic Interlude On Airplane, which also helpfully references Roy and June's dream of forgetting all their troubles and lighting out for Cape Horn which is where the movie will....woah, hold your horses. I'm not just giving it away for free! You gotta buy your ticket like everyone else! Anyway....

In the immediate aftermath of their Romantic Interlude On Airplane June retires to the restroom while Roy offs every single person - pilots included on the plane - so that when June returns from the bathroom she finds Roy landing the plane in a cornfield at which point we begin getting our bearings on that pesky plot. Roy Miller is in possession of a never-ending (literally) battery called the Zephyr (a wonderfully throwback MacGuffin name, if you ask me) which was created by a nerdy scientist played by Paul Dano at mininum wattage named Luscious Jackson (suggesting the makers of "Knight and Day" like to rock out now and again). But the C.I.A., given a face via Peter Saarsgaard and Viola Davis, is after the Zephyr, too, and they are under the impression Roy is trying to steal it rather than protect it. But is he?

This is for June Havens to determine as she and Roy, trailed not only by the C.I.A. but also by a Spanish - I think - arms dealer (Jordi Molla, no wattage whasoever), turbocharge their way from the streets of Boston to a deserted island to an Austrian train to Salzburg to Madrid, alternately trusting him and not trusting him, now again sipping champagne with him in ritzy resorts, every once in awhile finding themselves in a car chase and/or gunfight, while Roy Miller grins and cackles and shoots people and keeps telling her over and over to trust him even as he will do several things that come across as not-trustworthy - such as slipping her into an obligatory bikini at his off-the-grid home while she's sleeping after being (necessarily) drugged.

None of this works, of course, if we don't buy the megawatt stars' characters and I think Roy and June, separately, are believable simply because they are both so aligned with Cruise's and Cameron's personas. Much ado will be made of how Cruise is essentially just riffing on his recent public personality and, to a certain extent, this is true. Is he or isn't he nuts? Are those or aren't those crazy eyes? When he tells June "Everything happens for a reason" he truly, truly believes this is a clear cut explanation. Diaz, meanwhile, is an actress I've always appreciated a great deal when she is playing frenzied and flustered, out of her element, and rarely in "Knight and Day" is she in her element, not even when she's being fitted for a dress for her sister's forthcoming wedding. Generic rom coms ("The Holiday") and serious acting ("Gangs of New York") are not her forté but I think she works quite well here. ("You keep saying my name! Why do you keep saying my name?! It's freaking me out!" This is a line I think I can hear Katie saying at home.) I won't suggest that Cruise and Cameron have the-vineyard-just-caught-on-fire chemistry, because they don't, but they are good enough on their own that you will only feel a minor twinge of disappointment when their eventual kiss coughs and sputters.

The action scenes are, you know, action scenes, they won't change the world, but they'll do and the movie is smart enough to know that in the midst of the action scenes the blah effects aren't the point as much as Roy and June's interaction.

Will "Knight and Day" work as well outside of the frigid cineplex air conditioning? Can it hold up in your living room on a fall evening or on a winter afternoon? Doubtful. So you better go see it now. Preferably when there are heat advisories.


Wretched Genius said...

In fairness to Diaz's dramatic acting abilities, she was actually really good in Oliver Stone's under-appreciated Any Given Sunday.

Nick Prigge said...

Touché. She was good in that, though she was frenzied and flustered in a dramatic way.