Knight and Day
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Tom cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Paul Dano
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief
Suspension of disbelief can be a tricky thing. A little bit lets us
believe in magic for a couple of hours, or in elves, or vampires, or
in a driver who can make his car do impossible things. Suspension of
disbelief is the oil that helps the engine of the movie run smoothly.
Too much oil, though, makes your engine blow gaskets and stop working.
If a movie demands that its audience suspend their disbelief too much,
it will fall apart.
That is the biggest problem I have with “Knight and Day,” the new Tom
Cruise vehicle. It requires you to suspend your disbelief so strongly
over the course of the film that by halfway in, the characters don’t
even seem vaguely real anymore. What’s the point in worrying about
someone if their actions have no effect on the course of the plot?
There’s no logic to try and figure out, no possible events to see
coming and hope against, because what is happening on the screen in
front of you has so little bearing on what is going to happen later.
We’re presumably supposed to hang on for the ride and just believe,
but there’s not much of a ride when there’s no logical progression.
The setup of the film, and even the first 20 minutes or so, were
extremely promising: an ordinary woman, June (Cameron Diaz), gets
caught up in the adventures of a spy, Roy (Cruise), who is trying to
save a genius inventor and his powerful invention from a rogue agent
who has turned the government against him. June starts out pretty
sympathetic — she restores old cars, is lugging a rolling suitcase
full of parts, and when Roy tells her the pilots of the plane they’re
on are dead, she initially thinks he’s joking.
Roy is promising too. He’s every spy cliche rolled into one: handsome,
a top-notch fighter, able to land a plane in a cornfield in a pinch,
and considerate enough to give June a detailed warning about the
baddies who will likely come after her. He drugs her, takes her home,
leaves her a nice breakfast, and then disappears. At this point, I
thought my initial impressions from the trailers (namely, that this
was going to be an astonishingly bad film) were wrong. I should never
have doubted the director who brought us “Walk the Line” and “3:10 to
Yuma,” I told myself.
Sadly, my early optimism was quickly dashed and my doubts were proven
to be spot-on. June ignores Roy’s warnings and lets the government
agents get her into a car, so she then has to be rescued. She goes
into shock and tries to get away from him, but he chases her down,
tells her she has no chance on her own, and she throws her lot in with
him. Then he winds up having to drug her again and what looks, from
the glimpses we see through her eyes, like the best part of the movie
is glossed over until they’re on a desert island and she wakes up in a
bikini for some light romance and banter.
June’s mechanic abilities vanish almost immediately and she alternates
between shrieking damsel and skillful amateur spy (Roy compliments her
on several occasions). Roy has the same expression of
barely-restrained mania for almost the entire film, making the
agency’s allegations that he’s gone crazy pretty believable. On the
rare occasions when he’s being serious, it’s impossible to tell
whether he’s lying or not (he lies for a variety of reasons, most of
which the film wants us to believe turn out to be for June’s own
good). June and Roy fall for each other for no obvious reason, since
their chemistry consists of her getting them in danger and him having
to get them out.
The best thing I can say about the film is that the special effects
are very, very good. Most action movies these days have good enough
effects and cinematography that even if the writing and acting are
appalling, you have pretty things to look at. “Knight and Day” is no
exception. Unfortunately, its writing is some of the laziest I’ve ever
had the misfortune to see. The “seeing things through a drugged
person’s eyes” approach is used several times to gloss over the
logistics and fighting necessary to move from point A to point C. It
was kind of funny the first time, in a quasi-satirical kind of way,
but eventually it just looked like the writers couldn’t be bothered to
condense their film so it would fit the time limit, so they cut whole
sections and replaced them with druged-protagonist sequences.
The idea behind the film is a good one, but the execution is so
terrible that the only reasons I can think of to recommend the film to
anyone are masochism or an obsessive love for the main actors.