Review: “Knight and Day” Has Cruise Back in Control

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star the summer's second "Whoops! I fell for a secret agent with a target on his back" rom-com of the summer, “Knight and Day.” This latest one is infinitely – mercifully -- more entertaining than its predecessor, the Katherine Heigl-Ashton Kutcher fiasco "Killers."

"Knight and Day" opens with Roy Miller (Cruise) "bumping into" June Havens (Diaz) not once but twice in the Wichita Airport. Well wouldn't you know it, they end up on the same flight and one thing leads to another and Roy has to kill everyone on board, including the flight crew. Roy, it turns out has been accused by his employer, the FBI, of trying to steal what is believed to be the world's first perpetual-motion-machine battery, known as Zephyr. He spends the rest of the film dividing his time between keeping June alive and tending to Zephyr and its inventor, Simon Feck, played by Paul Dano.

The biggest problem plaguing "Knight and Day" is Diaz's performance in the first half of the film, the blame for which has to be laid squarely at the feet of director James Mangold, who lets her squeal through the first 45 minutes of the film. Diaz has done action/comedy throughout her career, most notably in "Charlie's Angels.” Additionally, her character at one point declares that her father wanted boys as an explanation for her skill as a mechanic and ability to throw a decent punch. So why must we endure Diaz doing the hysterical-shrieking-woman routine? (And for God’s sake, could we please get a moratorium on the panicky person spinning in circles unable to take their finger off the trigger? Seriously, it’s just dumb. Let’s put it to bed for five years.)

It’s not until June is injected with a truth serum that appears to affect her like a low-grade version of Ecstasy that she becomes an asset to both Cruise and the audience. Finally the charming, funny, sexy Diaz is allowed to do her thing. (this is not to condone drug/serum use, but in June’s case, it works.)

Cruise brings a slightly manic edge to his performance. Whether he’s intentionally walking that fine line or it’s a happy accident is impossible to know. What matters is that works. With images of Cruise going bananas on Oprah’s couch dancing in your head, it’s easy to believe that Roy will do anything.

Tom Cruise's career might have continued merrily along if his infamous leap onto Oprah's couch hadn't focused a spotlight oh his relationship with Katie Holmes, their wedding, the birth of their child and his belief in Scientology. A couple years of laying low and donning a fat-suit have earned him something of a reprieve and he appears to have gotten his career back on track.

Lurking in the shadows is Peter Sarsgaard, whose innate creepiness is an asset to his “maybe the real rogue agent” Fitzgerald.  Even (especially?) at his best, Sarsgaard comes off as uncomfortable in his own skin, a quality that makes the trustworthiness of his Fitzgerald a coin toss.

Mangold makes two other mistakes, one quite possibly the result of the other. There’s a near-epic chase through the streets of Seville, Spain, but low-budget greenscreening sucks much of the magic out of it. Maybe Mangold realized this and that’s why he trains his camera on his stars in close-up throughout much of it. But with motorcycles and cars and bulls racing through the streets, who really cares about Roy and June’s facial expressions? Frankly, we’re just glad she’s stopped screeching.

In a summer movie season that's been loaded with duds and disappointments, "Knight and Day" at least lives up to its promise, as modest as that may be.

 "Knight and Day" opens nationally on Wednesday

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