Review: Too Much Mild, But Not Enough Edge in Knight & Day
by Jeremy Kirk
June 23, 2010
Running from hails of bullets, leaping onto speeding cars, landing jetliners in corn fields after inadvertently killing off both of the pilots. It's hard work being a secret agent these days. And that's not even getting into the mess of becoming infatuated with a civilian blonde whom you have accidentally gotten involved in your latest attempt to save the world. So how does Tom Cruise's Roy Miller do it all without seeming to become flustered or falling apart at the seams? It probably has something to do with how soft the action surrounding him is in Knight and Day, a film that has little in the way of edges and even less in the way of surprise.
It's not an absolute let-down. From the moment he spots June Havens, played by the ever bubbly Cameron Diaz, at the airport in the film's hurried opening credits, the fun turns its control knob all the way clockwise and shows no signs of letting up. During their flight, Roy kills everyone on the plane but June. He says he's a secret agent, but he comes off more as an escapee from the local asylum than anything we've seen from 007 films. Once they've reached the ground, Roy drugs June into unconsciousness and returns her to her normal life, that's when things get really "hairy."
Those quotes are there simply for the fact that director James Mangold's vision of trouble and my own do not match. He seems to think CG car chases where our hero seems to be attached to one car via Velcro while another car flips over his head is danger-tainment. I could go for something a little more grounded. There are a lot of leaps to be found in Knight and Day, and I'm not talking about physical jumping ability. You're supposed to believe a lot of what is going on is conceivable let alone executable in the very real world of espionage. People do certainly die in this world Roy and June inhabit, sometimes with an ample amount of force being driven into them from the side. But this idea of what Mangold wants us to believe in is hindered by how bright and cheery his images are. Everything seems to be infused in a color palette not found anywhere in the real world. It's not so far down the color line as to find itself in Tim Burton territory. More like The Simpsons, really. You almost feel like everyone should have a bright, yellow hue to their skin.
It's hard getting past this leap in reality that comes both from the script and in Mangold's direction of that script. But this leap pails in comparison to the one we are forced to take between Roy and June. What does he see in her? It's never explained to us. We get some back-story as to who Roy was before becoming a covert operative, but nothing is ever revealed as to what it is about June that appeals to him.
Harder to understand, I guess, is the appeal the character being played by Tom Cruise has towards the character being played by Diaz. With another actress in this role, it may have been more believable. Cruise is wacky and intense, and it's just the right combination of both of those mixed with a healthy dose of sincerity to make him somewhat believable. Diaz is her same self, effervescent to the point you almost expect her to float up into the sky. With someone more grounded (there's that word again), the film may have worked better. Certainly, the connection between these two characters would have worked better.
As it is, though, we just don't see it. It's as if Roy, this super spy who leads a grand lifestyle of action and adventure closes his eyes, points out his finger at the airport, and, whoever he finds himself facing when he opens his eyes is the person he is going to fall for. You could spin it and say she represents normalcy where his life has none, but that subject is never even broached let alone explained in any acceptable detail.
These two leaps aside, the film is just as bubbly and soft-edged as Diaz seems to be. There's no sense of suspense, but the action is slick, fast, and it certainly looks good on a digital projection. Look good, I say, in that it's a bunch of bright colors flying at you 100 miles per hour. That "looking good" bit has nothing to do with the CG utilized here, which the less said about the better. The catalyst for all this slick action isn't worth bothering over. There's some super battery that is the ultimate McGuffin, even if that McGuffin becomes such a predictable plot device you know fully well where it is heading before it even gets started. There are other agents chasing after Roy and June, and, lead by Peter Sarsgaard, you would think we'd have some weighty villains. We don't, though, and Sarsgaard et al are simply wasted, lost in the ocean of colors that seem more suitable in an Impressionistic painting than an action adventure film. Really, it looks like Claude Monet served as the cinematographer here, and that's not a compliment.
But hey, there's fun to be had if you can get past all the jarring exuberance found in Knight and Day. I was only half-joking about that Simpsons comparison, but an animated version of this story may have served the story at hand better than what Mangold and his team have given us here. At least, then, how the action was shot may have better paralleled the type of action at hand. It surely would have done wonders for the Cruise/Diaz connection.
Jeremy's Rating: 5.5 out of 10