James Mangold is responsible for two remarkably good movies in Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma. Tom Cruise is the biggest star on the planet with a string of box-office hits and an entire franchise based on him playing a spy. Cameron Diaz is easily one of the funniest women on the planet and can light up a screen with her infectious smile and easy nature. So what happens when Knight and Day puts the 3 of them together in a light-hearted spy caper?
June Havens is an ordinary girl, trying to make her ordinary way back to be her ordinary sister’s bridesmaid. That all changes when she bumps into Roy Miller, an extra-ordinary spy and possibly insane lunatic, who manages to kill an entire plane load of “bad guys” and crash-land it in a field. And that’s just the start of it! Soon June is caught up in a whirlwind chase, running from the authorities who are convinced that Miller is gone rogue and that June is his accomplice, intent on tracking down the one man and magical device that can clear Miller’s name.
Cruise completely overplays his character who comes of as more of a cartoon version of Ethan Hunt than a parody of that character or Cary Grant in North by Northwest. It’s a shame really because when he’s on comic form (and there are glimpses here) Cruise is an unbelievable cinematic presence. Diaz does what she can with a very two-dimensional role, infusing her character with a steely determination and a flighty spirit that is as attractive as it is distracting. Given even less to work with are Peter Sarsgaard, whose obvious bad-guy is…well…obvious, and Paul Dano who is simply wasted. The central pairing is what the movie is built around and while they look great on screen, it’s vacuous and unfulfilling.
The script is the biggest culprit here as it is completely devoid of inspiration, subtlety or anything remotely resembling a plot. Instead it relies on copious amounts of clichéd spy gags and a dialogue designed purely to set up the next set-piece. This would be fine in most action flicks as the action scenes are the money shots. Not here though as they are a mess of unbelievable scenarios and an over-reliance on CGI. There’s absolutely no consequences to any of Miller’s reckless actions, but then that’s the basis of all big action movies so we can’t single out just this one. Oh and there’s a MacGuffin! Let’s just say that Hitchcock – which it is obviously trying to be with the 39 Steps and North by Northwest nods – this is not.If Mangold had any say in the design and flow of this movie it is not immediately apparent. In fact it all seems like a glamour exercise for the Cruise ego.
Despite all its flaws the fact that this movie manages to remain entertaining for the most part is an utter miracle. It’s a mess…a stupid mess…but as summer popcorn movies go you could do worse. I hate that I don’t hate this.