Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed By: James Mangold
Knight and Day has no real characters, no plot, no-sense of urgency, no point to speak of. Yet, somehow, polished up like Tom Cruise’s bright white teeth reflected in his Persol Havana sunglasses, it very nearly works.
Director James Mangold envelops this shiny affair in a retro air, specifically the comedy/action genre so prevalent during the 1970s. In fact, were this film made back then it would likely have co-starred Goldie Hawn in the shrieking Cameron Diaz role and Burt Reynolds as Cruise’s, top off at least three times and seemingly impervious to bullets lead.
As loud Julie Havens, Diaz equips herself admirably playing an old fashioned heroine whose sole responsibility is to entice the heterosexual male gaze. There is an attempt, a clumsy one at that, to provide Havens with a pseudo-masculine backstory, something about her being a mechanic and a daddy’s girl. This is presumably so Diaz can use the word ‘tomboyish’ when describing her character in interviews as opposed to ‘girly’.
They need not have bothered, as Knight and Day is most entertaining when viewed as pastiche. The throwback costume design by Arianne Phillips (Mangold’s Walk the Line, A Single Man for Tom Ford) hints we are just sideburns, backcombing and some Marlboro cigarettes away from the 1960s/70’s. The supposedly comical (though it really isn’t) yellow bridesmaid dress Diaz wears at one point would probably have been written into Goldie Hawn’s contract.
Tom Cruise as spy from another time, another planet Roy Miller strolls on screen relaxed as you like in a Cafe Racer style designer zipper. Later Jordi Mollà’s genial arms dealer Antonio sports a stone coloured Harrington. Both men are action-orientated casual retro in a late seventies, Roger Moore as James Bond kind of way.
This old school OO7 association is further reflected in Knight and Day’s vintage cars, picture postcard locations that could not possibly exist in real life, and a maguffin so outmoded and preposterous it might as well be blueprints for a boat that swallows submarines. Fortunately the physical action is no worse than a Moore Bond film either, though there is nearly as much rear projection and frequent reliance on questionable CGI, used here instead of unconvincing stunt doubles.
Mangold plays with his computer so much during the major set pieces (there are loads, involving nearly all forms of transport) it is distracting. The jet plane crash looks about as convincing as Cruise’s breathe-in torso, while the Ducati bull-run escape – ironically filmed with real bulls for the most part – is laughably wobbly. Cruise and Diaz appear to straddling a motorbike arcade machine for most of it.
Full credit goes to both actors for flinging themselves so wholeheartedly into this daft mix however. While Cruise can do charm with a handgun in his sleep, Diaz is amiable enough to hark back to her self aware debut in The Mask (1994). Also it is nice to see Hollywood backing a $100,000,000+ action movie on two headliners who are no longer in their twenties. Of course, judging by box office receipts (this is Cruise’s lowest attended opening weekend since Far and Away in 1992) it has not paid off, and so is unlikely to happen again. But, still, the willing was there.
With a fistfight, firefight or something exploding every two minutes, Knight and Day is a fast paced romp that’s occasionally quite funny (Miller tied up and hanging upside down: “Don’t worry, we’ll be out of here in a minute”). Once you cotton onto the fact that you’re watching ‘Carry on Bourne’, you might even enjoy it.
Knight and Day is released in the UK on 6th August.
© 2010 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.