DVD Review: Knight and Day (PG-13)


Nice Shot

Tom Cruise is a superspy with manners

By Jared Peterson

In Knight and Day, box office golden boy Tom Cruise plays Roy Miller, a CIA superspook on a perfectly possible mission. Our first dose of chaos comes on a nearly empty airliner—a set-up, clearly, with every passenger and crewmember a plant waiting patiently to reach cruising altitude before attacking. All but one: a comely and frazzled car restorer named June Havens (Cameron Diaz—Comely and Frazzled, patent pending) headed home to Boston for her sister’s wedding. She finds her way haplessly onto the flight, strikes up a rapport with Roy, and as she primps in the lavatory, he springs into action. He takes down his targets with professional efficiency—no trace of malice on his face, only a look of easy concentration, disarming and hobbling his attackers as though he were helping them briskly into a cab. The threat neutralized, everybody dead, he turns to the task of gently breaking the news to June.

That’s the thing: Roy isn’t just good; he’s nice. (If, as has been said, Jason Bourne is America’s James Bond, Roy may be the nearest we’ll ever come to Canada’s.) Instead of barking orders at his charge, he ushers her gently through the melee, politely instructing her on the finer points of escape and evasion. Of course, Miller’s encouraging demeanor—“Nice job with that driving,” he tells June. “And on top of a dead guy, too.”—is a useful tactical tool. But while directness, tact and an even tone might help you or me score a corner booth at Denny’s, Miller wields them, alongside the familiar karate jabs and pinpoint gunshots, as weapons in his arsenal.

The reason for all the running and shooting is a palm-size battery, codenamed Zephyr. It keeps going and going and promises to be a cheap, reliable, spill-proof solution to the world’s energy woes. Naturally, more than one bunch of bad guys wants a piece of that action. A government turncoat called Fitzgerald (played by Peter Sarsgaard with his signature dead-eyed menace) has decided to steal it and sell it to the highest bidder, in this case a Cuban weapons dealer (Jordi Mollà). He frames Roy as an agent gone rogue, but Roy has sworn to carry out his original mission to keep the Zephyr and its shut-in inventor Simon (Paul Dano) safe. June stays caught up in the fracas mainly because she seems incapable of following any of Miller’s professional advice. Every time he deposits her back into her life, she makes some move that once again thrusts her into the thick of things. Roy must then ride in and rescue her, and this is one of the film’s mild disappointments: June isn’t a particularly strong woman, and Cruise isn’t a particularly interesting man. He’s there to save her; she’s there to be saved.

Still, there’s fun to be had in Knight and Day. The action sequences are inventively choreographed and satisfyingly over-the-top, the stylized action pulling double duty by providing the impressive, ooh-and-ah thrills of the summer popcorn adventure flick and a knowing, over-the-top spoof of those same thrills. Though we’re treated to slow pours of syrupy exposition, soon enough come the fire hoses full of loud, chaotic action. Black Suburbans flip; buildings explode. Black-clad soldiers and bespoke tailored goons, their automatic weapons set obligingly to “Miss”, pour in from all directions and dismantle the scenery. All the while June worries and Roy soothes. (I must say that I would like to have seen this story play out with two fresher actors. Clearly, Cruise and Diaz were the go-to names for this project, but it might have made an interesting turn for, say, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. Give some new blood a chance.)

As shoot-‘em-ups go, Knight and Day spares no expense in popping off rounds for our enjoyment. Many dozens of bad guys get it but good over the course of the movie’s hour and forty-five minutes. There are a few traces of blood strewn about, a chest wound here, a spattering on a car window there. Not that Cruise’s character makes it through without a scratch; he does, in fact, get a scratch, a mere graze in all that fire, which we do see—harmless, but excuse enough to get him out of his shirt. (In the interest of equal rights, Diaz finds her way into a bikini as well.) In addition to crack gunshots, Roy breaks bones as part of his repertoire. A scowling assassin takes a knife to the heart; a bomb blows up in someone’s face (a cut-away spares us the details). In addition to the aforementioned car crashes, there’s a plane crash, and while no one who isn’t already dead suffers, in the last decade this has not become easier to watch.

A dozen or so s-words pepper the dialogue, along with one f-bomb. Diaz and Cruise share a couple of tame kisses, and under the influence of a potent truth serum, she confesses her lust for knight in shining armor. There is also the suggestion that each got a peek at the other naked.

While some ads for the film seem to play up the spy thriller angle, there’s no question this is a comedy with more than a passing resemblance to Grosse Pointe Blank. (The two films share many of the same producers.) Fans of the latter should get a roundhouse kick out of this guilty pleasure.


Too violent for your kids? Perhaps “Toy Story 3” would be better.

If you prefer Bradley Cooper to Tom Cruise (and, frankly, who doesn’t?) maybe you should check out “The A-Team.”