So: Tom Cruise is back. Apparently. After several years of most of America hating his bizarre Scientology-spouting, Katie Holmes-purchasing (and baby-making-somehow, possibly through Michael Jackson techniques), and the like, one performance in a fat suit at the MTV Movie Awards is enough to make us love the Top Gun again. But will this goodwill translate into box office for his new spy caper, Knight & Day?
Let’s dispense with the plot of Knight & Day real quick: Cruise plays spy. Goes on date with cute girl (Cameron Diaz). Then work intrudes with a MacGuffin of a renewable energy source battery thingamajig and the pair have to save the world. Cue the action sequences. Obviously, a movie like this lives or dies on the strength of chemistry between the leads. Cruise and Diaz have worked together before (on the very different Vanilla Sky), so they were a known quantity going in, but both have seen their careers change pretty drastically since then. What’s weird about Knight & Day – and, in some ways, what’s interesting about it – is the way it plays with our perception of Cruise’s character, Agent Roy Miller. What would be standard spy behavior in a Bond or Bourne film (reckless driving, killing faceless “terrorists”) is called into question when we’re told that he’s mentally unbalanced and might be working for the bad guys. For a film that seems stapled to such a flimsy premise, it lends a layer of dissonance that would have been fun to explore in greater detail.
Unfortunately, for all of Cruise’s identity play, it’s Diaz’s June Havens character that suffers for it. At times she’s nothing more than a prop for Roy to drag around – she’s drugged or knocked out an astounding six times through the course of the movie’s running time, which for a POV character is disorienting to say the least. And Diaz, a remarkable comic actress on her own merits, isn’t given nearly enough to work with here, which is a shame. Her charm and charisma could have elevated the film several notches.
But, all that said, as a summer big-star blockbuster, Knight & Day has a lot to recommend it. The action scenes are frantic and well-paced, with some spectacular chases. You’ll laugh at a number of the film’s situations, and when the credits roll you might even feel good about Tom Cruise again.