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Non-Review Review: Knight & Day

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Much like Mission: Impossible, while I was watching Knight & Day I couldn’t help but get the impression that Tom Cruise really wanted to be James Bond. And, at the risk of being controversial, if an American actor were ever chosen, I think Cruise would fit the bill nicely. Indeed, Knight & Day feels more like a sort of traditional Bond film than Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace have, and its that sense of endearing nostalgia which really makes the film worthwhile. In a film season packed with disappointing films, Knight & Day is an entertaining and engaging romp which might make you smile as you spend two hours with it.

It's a romantic action comedy, and it has the big guns attached...

The plot is ridiculously straight-forward. June Havens is on her way home when she bumps into Roy Miller. Miller is a slightly, goofy charming guy. Long story short, a whole host of flirting happens, followed by the brutal deaths of an entire flight crew, a massive plane crash and June wakes up back in her bed. However, Miller is involved in some pretty shady shenanigans, and it seems like the entire world is out to get him. Intelligence agencies claim he’s a wanted killer, while he asserts he’s just a good guy.

You can pretty much see where the plot goes from there, but it’s consistently entertaining. James Mangold makes for a strange director, with his filmography including films like Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma and Girl, Interrupted. Unlike most prestigious directors when handling lighter fare with bigger stars, Mangold never creates the impression that he’s “slumming it.” Mangold and Cruise show a natural talent for physical comedy, but never really going overboard. It’s hard to make the audience laugh while still making sure they take you seriously – in fact, it’s one of the defining traits of the Bond films that it’s so hard to replicate – but they do it.

Flight of fancy?

In fact, the whole film feels almost like a weird hybrid of a Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan Bond film. There’s a lot of humour here, but there are also genuine thrills. The movie liberally borrows from the established spy franchise – in particular one sequence with June and Roy calls to mind that famous bike chase from Tomorrow Never Dies (which was an example of the stunts that the Bond films could do while remaining both witty and exciting). However, as much as it emulates the tone of those films, it recognises that the formula can’t be transposed wholesale – it’s very much a conventional American spy thriller, just with hints of Bond sophistication thrown on top. I’m surprised it works so well, but it does.

The plot is straight-forward and the twists are both convenient and predictable (right up to the “misunderstanding separates our leads in the last act” bit), but it seems like it’s genuinely fun. Mangold has assembled one heck of a cast to support his leads. Peter Saarsgard, Voila Davis and Paul Dano all show up to round out the mandatory supporting roles (and there’s even small roles for Marc Blucas from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Maggie Grace from Lost as well).

Is Roy taking her for a ride?

The two leads know what they are doing. However much Cruise’s personal beliefs might make him a controversial figure, I strongly believe he’s one of the best actors of his generation. That he didn’t get nominated for Collateral is crime. He’s not exceptional here, but he’s professional. He knows what he’s doing and can guide you through the film. He also seems to be enjoying himself, which is fun to watch. Cameron Diaz, similarly, isn’t doing career best work, but – as far as female rom-com leads go – she’s among the best at what she does. The movie couldn’t ask for two stronger headline performers.

Knight & Day breezes by. It’s not a great film, per se. In that it relies too much on awkward and hokey coincidences. Sufficed to say that the final confrontation, built up over the entire movie, is a bit of a let-down. Still, it’s populated with a cast who know what they’re doing and a director who seems to have genuine eye for the kind of crazy adventure action comedy he’s trying to make. It does what it says on the tin, and does it really well, too.

4 Responses

  1. Yes, I quite like this film. All it promised was good fun entertaining action and that;’s exactly what it delivered and the action was actually comprehensible as opposed to that shakey, too close, edited too quickly garbage that A-Team was. It’s too bad more people didn’t see it just because it’s star once jumped on a couch. Such is life I suppose.

    • Yep. I also think that the fact it wasn’t a sequel or a remake also counted against it. Being honest, I wasn’t excited about either, but I probably would have gone to see The A-Team before this and (despite Patrick Wilson) that would have been my loss.

  2. Oh, Cruise wants to be Bond, I thought what he really wanted to be was a superhero! Despite all the ingredients that could make for a great movie, I thought this was disappointing, right up there w/ The Tourist kind of disappointment actually, except that the latter at least has Timothy Dalton to soften the blow. Sorry to disagree with you Darren, but this falls under my top 5 worst of the year.

    • No worries, what fun would be if everyone agreed? Nah, it wasn’t brilliant, but I enjoyed it. I thought it was relatively bland and inoffensive, which puts it a yard or two ahead of most of the other films that summer.

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