Knight and Day
Film review by: Witney Seibold
This bugs me, but only a little bit: James Mangold‘s film is called “Knight and Day,” but the characters are named Miller and Havens. This seems wrong to me. They should be named Knight and Day. But that’s as may be.
So June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is a pretty young thing who runs into a handsome stranger named Roy (Tom Cruise) at an airport. They are both fizzy and friendly and we are reminded why Diaz and Cruise are movie stars in the first place. They flirt and even manage to kiss on their flight. Complications arise, though, when Roy has to kill everyone on the place, land it in a field, and then drug June and stash her away. Roy, you see, is some kind of super-agent/killing machine/assassin or something, and while June is drawn to his charm, wants nothing to do with his violent lifestyle. Sadly, she’s already kind of involved in the proceedings (for reasons that are made kind of clear later on), and she is swept up in a tale of international intrigue, jaunty globetrotting, a shady government agency (represented by an underplaying Peter Sarsgaard) a kidnapped scientist (Paul Dano), a convincing techno-MacGuffin, and no small amount of sexy, PG-13-rated flirting. We even get to see our attractive leads in swimsuits.
This is essentially the same story as Stanley Donen‘s 1963 classic “Charade,” with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, with the same types of characters and the same types of situations, even if the details and violence levels are different. This makes for a film that has pulse-pounding action scenes that are mercifully upstaged by a charming romance, strong, charming characters, and a mystery that we are eager to see solved. There is something attractively quaint about “Knight and Day.” It feels like a relic from the mid-to-late 1990s, when big chases and attractive stars meant more than they seem to today. It’s not a film bogged down by a high concept, too many CGI effects (although the film has its share), or a need to be “gritty.” It’s a film that prides itself on being airy and even kind of silly at times. It’s possessed of that quality that seems all to lacking in a lot of action films of today: fun.
Had Mangold bothered to push his film a little harder, and ramp up the action a little more, “Knight and Day” would have been the best film of 1994. As it stands, however, the action seems strangely subdued. I know I just praised the film for putting its characters to the fore of its explosions, but I did want to see some good chases and escapes mixed in with the charming banter, and Mangold made the odd choice to scale the action back right when it should be ramping up into climactic territory. He even bothered to give us a story that had several twists and extra elements just when we thought everything was wrapping up. That’s an excuse to have a big, big chase, and instead we’re given something that could have taken place earlier in the film. This is not necessarily bad filmmaking, but it’s not a very thrilling way to frame you action movie.
As it stands, we have a calm and, yes, charming film with attractive stars and a fun story. “Knight and Day” did not do as well as expected at the box office, and many are blaming the presence of Tom Cruise on that, and all the negative wacky publicity he’s accrued over the last few years. Say what you will about Cruise, he’s a handsome man who has that all-important movie star quality. In “Knight and Day,” he does his best not to let us forget that.