The phrase "pure escapist entertainment" is thrown around a lot. Often, it means whatever being described is bad, but enjoyable. Knight and Day, with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, did little block-busting stateside last summer, and it definitely merits the aforementioned description. But, Knight and Day, with its giddy, implausible goings-on, never takes itself seriously, and is actually pretty good.
Car restorer June (Diaz) bumps into Roy (Cruise) at the Wichita airport while traveling home for her sister's wedding. Aboard a nearly empty flight, June chats up Roy, a spy on the lam accused of going rogue. When June retreats to the lavatory, Roy dispatches with the rest of the passengers, including the pilots, which forces him to land the plane in a cornfield. After the crash, Roy warns June to stay clear of anyone offering to take her to a safe place. The next day, a group of men claiming to be FBI agents picks up June before Roy literally drops in to rescue her. The film's MacGuffin, and heart of the conflict, is a perpetual-energy battery created by young genius Simon (Paul Dano) that is in Roy's possession.
The plot of Knight and Day is fairly convoluted - perhaps unnecessarily so - but the movie succeeds by breezing past any questions of logic. June becomes Roy's unwitting companion on a global race to keep the battery out of the hands of some arms dealers, while two CIA agents (Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis) try to figure out why one of their own keeps evading them. To facilitate some of this continent hopping, Knight and Day employs a humorous motif of flashing moving images of Roy carting a drugged June onto ridiculous transportation, from skydiving to jungle jeeps.
Say what you will about Cruise, but I have enjoyed his recent action and comedic roles. Roy is not a grotesque parody like Cruise's Weinstein-esque Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, but he is not straight Ethan Hunt either. Cruise was necessary to sell Knight and Day, and his easygoing yet excitable manner is well-suited to the material. Diaz is no longer the prettiest girl for the part and some of her comedy is the film's silliest, but she balances the blond ambition, gun-slinging and her character's car-junkie backstory well.
To call upon another cliché expression, the film's tone is both its greatest strength and weakness. Knight and Day is more Rush Hour than Mission: Impossible, and revelations are constantly ridiculous. Director James Mangold (Walk the Line) handles the story with a nod and a wink, but those expecting mortal danger for the heroes will likely be disappointed. I saw Knight and Day theatrically, and pockets of silence in the theater were an indication that not everyone appreciated the goofy humor.
Clearly shot as beat-the-heat summer entertainment, Knight and Day did not pick up much of an audience in theaters. Was the film's polarizing star to blame, or, perhaps, the edgy but ambiguous marketing and confusing title? Whatever the reason, Knight and Day is actually a lot of fun. Cruise and Diaz play well together, and the film's lively action sequences, for which Cruise and Diaz did many of their own stunts, are exciting if not particularly suspenseful. Cruise may regain his title as box-office king with upcoming Mission: Impossible and Top Gun sequels, but Knight and Day is a pleasant diversion.
VIDEO AND SOUND:
Fox's screening copy of Knight and Day does not include the final transfer or sound mix, so I cannot review these aspects of the disc. I will update this section if the retail disc becomes available to me in the future.
Cleverly titled extras include Wilder Knights and Crazier Days (12:30), a decent look at the making of Knight and Day that combines on-set footage, film clips and interviews with the cast and crew. Cruise is known to do a lot of his own stunt work, and this film is no exception. Also interesting, Diaz did some of the crazier driving herself. Knight and "Someday": Featuring The Black Eyed Peas and Tom Cruise (9:09) is footage of Cruise and wife Katie Holmes backstage at a Black Eyed Peas' concert. Cruise asked the band to create a song for the end credits, and they debut the track at a concert afterparty. Viral Video: Soccer (1:08) and Viral Video: Kick (1:21) are funny advertisements for the film. The film's theatrical trailer (2:26) is also included.
Few films deemed "pure escapist entertainment" are particularly good, but Knight and Day bucks the trend. Silly without going overboard and benefiting from breezy action and amiable stars in Cruise and Diaz, Knight and Day was a casualty of war in the unspectacular summer 2010 movie season. Knight and Day is fun; nothing more, nothing less. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.