Knight and Day
Directed by James Mangold
Tom Cruise plays another super-agent on the lam in Knight and Day, and his strategy is apparent early on: damn the naysayers and hit the gas on his Cruisiness. While ensnaring normal gal Cameron Diaz into his spy games, he chatters with the same life-coach, people-pleasing assuredness you see in his real-life interviews (it doesn't hurt that his character's enemies insist that he's crazy while he's determined to prove otherwise). Diaz responds with dorky incredulity, unsure not just of whether to believe this guy, but what to do if she does: kiss, help kick ass, or run for cover.
Cruise and Diaz were last together in Cameron Crowe's underrated Vanilla Sky, which kidded and toyed with their golden-guy-and-gal images. Age has crept into both actors' faces since then, and it's fun, for awhile, to watch them flirt, trying to summon their movie-star best. But plenty of movies, from Sky to Magnolia to War of the Worlds, have already deconstructed the Cruise persona, and better integrated the audience's knowledge and expectations into a compelling narrative. Here, Cruisiness isn't a clever thread but pretty much the whole cloth.
I don't think that's the intention; the movie is told mostly from Diaz's point of view, underlined in one of the film's best gags, when a drugged Diaz moves in and out of consciousness during three separate patented Cruise action sequences (it's a variation on a bit from the last Mission: Impossible movie, but still spoofs that series' multi-vehicle breeziness). But that haze leaks into the rest of the movie, a romance-comedy-action hybrid that never settles into a comfortable groove for longer than a few scenes.
Snappy dialogue, rather than Cruise's mantra-like repetition or Diaz's stammering, would've helped immeasurably. Neither Cruise nor Diaz are natural comedians in the traditional sense, but both have a knack for finding funny notes in less overtly comedic material. In Knight and Day, though, there's barely any material at all; the romantic espionage is thinner than any Ethan Hunt adventure. There are neat ideas for action sequences, capably shot by director James Mangold, but the effects are often dispiritingly shoddy, as if the filmmakers had a lot of ideas they couldn't actually afford—just as Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis in the supporting cast hint at characters no one actually wanted to develop. The whole movie, straining to simulate globetrotting or chemistry or even car-driving, feels like a long, unconvincing con.
Opens June 23