by HELEN GEIB
A globe-trotting comic adventure starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day is terrific light entertainment.
All too often “for adults” really means “not for children.” Knight and Day is a movie for adults, but not for the usual negative reasons; it’s a soft PG-13 for some comic violence, and has no profanity or explicit sexuality. Rather, it’s a movie for adults for the positive reason that it has an adult sensibility.
Roy (Cruise) and June (Diaz) meet when they bump into each other- literally walk into each other, twice- at the Wichita airport. They feel an immediate attraction which grows as they chat on the nearly empty flight to Boston. Their “meet cute” is suddenly interrupted, however, when Roy takes out the rest of the passengers and the flight crew, who are actually a CIA hit team after Roy for stealing the product of a top-secret government clean energy research program. (No prize for guessing that he is in fact, innocent- Roy is the hero, and this is very light light entertainment). June meanwhile is in the lavatory fixing her hair and giving herself a pep talk. Completely oblivious to the takedown while it’s happening and freaked out by the results, she will grow from reluctant traveling companion to indispensable partner over the course of her further adventures with Roy. That “accidental” meeting June thought was fate, but was actually engineered by Roy as part of his escape plan, was really fate all along.
The opening segment’s buoyant mix of comedy, romance, and adventure sets the tone for everything that follows. Director James Mangold keeps the pace lively and the mood at exactly the right degree of knowing. The film glows with the brightness of a major Hollywood studio production. It was filmed on-location in exotic locations; is brimful with car chases, foot chases, hand-to-hand fights, and shootouts designed to please the most demanding action movie fan; and bounces along to a musically varied score that always strikes just the note to keep things light and humorous.
Knight and Day is an unapologetic star vehicle. It showcases Cruise and Diaz’s proven star power. Their on-screen presence, their sex appeal, their comic timing is its foundation. It rests on Cruise’s facility for playing cocky but charismatic action hero and Diaz’s facility for playing intelligent yet ditzy rom-com heroine. Simply put, it’s their charm. Those viewers immune to either star’s high-wattage smile will find much less in the film to enjoy, and might even- gasp!- not even enjoy it at all.
Of the three strands of comedy, romance, and adventure, the comedy dominates. The action always has a comedic edge and Roy and June are a comedy duo as much as they are a hot item. Patrick O’Neill’s script supplies a lot of funny lines of dialogue, and script and visuals have many clever touches.
One of the cleverest bits is that a lot of the fun is in what isn’t shown. The end of the airplane adventure sets up an excellent running joke that falls into this category. June is freaking out so Roy slips her a sedative that puts her to sleep; cut to her waking up in her own bed (in a house now festooned with post-its on which Roy has written reminders to pretend she doesn’t know him and to eat a good breakfast). Roy and June will make several more trans-continental journeys during which only one of them will be fully conscious, such as their escape from the clutches of a drug kingpin’s hired mercenaries in Boston to the temporary refuge of Roy’s tropical island safehouse, in stages glimpsed through a drug-induced haze. There’s a delightful audacity to it.