Knight and Day
One thing is clear, Knight and Day is a really good film, it's funny, exciting, packed full of great stunts, and has two great performances from Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. If you misread the marketing or listen to too many anti-Cruise comments, you're going to miss out on a damn good film.
Then there's the marketing aspect, something I just don't understand. To me the attraction to audiences is clear, this feels a lot like Mr. & Mrs. Smith and yet the marketing doesn't reflect that. It's a great action adventure, and Cameron Diaz has a big a role as Tom Cruise does, it really is equal billing, in fact Diaz's role sometimes outperforms Cruise, and that's no bad thing.
I really hope that Knight and Day is set to be one of these underrated films that may not perform so well in the cinema but gets a wider through DVD, Blu-ray and online, because its good, really good.
A mysterious man walks through an airport and has a chance encounter with a beautiful woman, well a couple actually, before finding themselves on the same flight. They chat, there's some flirtation, and she heads to the bathroom to freshen up and coax up the courage to make her move. When she returns it seems that everyone on board the plane is dead, including the pilots.
The man turns out to be an agent “gone rogue” on the run from the agency he used to work for, an agency who are now after both him and the woman whom they now believe is involved in a plot to steal a valuable item from America and sell it to terrorists.
Her whole world has just turned upside down and she can't get back to her normal life, not without the help of the mysterious stranger, and that's where things start getting crazy.
I really loved the story, the intrigue starts almost immediately with the mysterious stranger and the confused woman who is pulled into events that she has no control or understanding over. It feels a little like a Hitchcock story during these early scenes involving June Havens, played by Cameron Diaz, however don’t let me make it sound more intellectual than it is, for that feeling soon subsides as she gets pulled into the action and the story becomes more about the two of them rather than the female on her own.
There are a few core areas to the film that make it work so well, there’s the action, the relentless chasing, the comedy, and the chemistry between the two leads.
The action sequences throughout the film are excellent, a couple feel rather close to scenes from Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but that’s not a bad thing because they work really well and there are enough differences to allow them to stand alone. There’s only one that I didn’t find worked so well and that was down to slightly below par CG of the bulls chasing the motorbike through the streets of Spain, they just don’t look realistic enough to convince your eyes. That said, it’s what happens with them and the result of the sequence that gives the big payoff and takes your mind off analysing the effects.
Other than that the action sequences work really well because they are tied in with the story and the characters, a bit like the sequences in Bourne. There’s not a feeling that the story stops for an action sequence, instead the humour, story and the characters continue through the action and these sequences feel an integral part of the story.
The thriller aspect of the story works well too. There’s the MacGuffin that ties the entire story together, the item that has been stolen from the government in order to protect it from being stolen and sold to terrorists, or stolen in order to sell it to terrorists, and the twists and turns it encounters along the way with the agency constantly chasing the couple and keeping the audience on their toes.
The humour is a huge aspect of the film and ties closely in with the two lead actors and their chemistry, providing respite from the action and the tension, as well as strengthening their relationship.
All these aspects intermingle well through a fantastic script by Patrick O'Neill that has been directed with pace and drama and with a keen eye for the story and characters, characters who have two excellent actors behind them giving strong performances with great comic timing.
Tom Cruise, and we have to address this issue at some point don’t we, is very good. His character swaps between playing the perfect secret agent who can deal with any situation to a wry comedy performance with ease, swapping back with a bullet. His comic timing is spot on, and combined with that of Cameron Diaz, they make a great on screen couple.
Diaz is just as excellent and really doesn't play second fiddle. She begins the film as the typical frightened female character but throughout gains confidence and begins to start pushing back to Cruise’s character and fighting back against the bad guys. It’s good to see a female lead developing rather than taking a back seat to the leading man, and she does it well, building to a strong, solid lead.
Her comic timing is great too, and her character provides some great laughs through her insecurities and her facial expressions. You know I really have forgotten how strong an actress she is, and here she shows it as she stands up to Cruise.
These aren't the only big names in the film though, and there's Peter Sarsgaard playing the agent chasing after the two, Viola Davis playing the director of the agency, Jordi Mollà as the bad guy, Paul Dano as the genius inventor, and more, and all give good performances.
There are quite a few notable moments in the film, much more than your average blockbuster, the repeated use of drugs on Diaz's character, the scenes of her talking to herself in the plane toilet oblivious to the action going on outside, Cruise's character talking her through putting her belt on while at the controls of the diving plane, and so on. Many strong moments that have been well scripted, thought through and delivered with a wry take by these two actors who work so well together.
The use of drugs on Diaz provides for some amusing moments but also provides a mechanism for the film to move quickly from location to location and keep a strong pace through the events without continually fading to and titling up a new country. Instead of the standard location changes it is kept in story and her character is drugged in one country and wakes up in another, dragged along at breakneck pace with the events and the story, as we are as well.
It's a great way of moving the story along and onto new locations while keeping that pace and that exotic secret agent feel to the film, and again all scripted really well and with plenty of humour throughout. Indeed the scene where Diaz's character is finally given a drug that doesn't put her to sleep is one of the funniest of the film and she shows what a great actress she is in scenes like this, drawing the audience in and making the laugh with her so easily, and they did.
It's also worth mentioning here the direction and the style of the film from James Mangold, although I've already made a point about some poor CG, for the rest of the film there aren't any issues and the reliance on practical effects and stunts makes it seem even more real.
Those transitions across locations using the drugging of Diaz's character look very stylish, and the waking scenes are something that stick in my mind as bringing forward the confusion and difficulty of coming back to the real world. The rest of the film is hugely cinematic, helped by some superb locations and two huge and attractive Hollywood faces. It looks, and feels, as slick and stylish as Bourne or Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
The story turnaround is good, although to be fair much of the final act is somewhat expected, however the delivery is what makes it different and provides the extra excitement and tension as well as the enjoyment of following the two leading characters.
Ultimately the end is rather soft and plays out without surprise, but it's still enjoyable and there are a couple additional moments for the main and ancillary characters that gives a satisfying feel to it and provide you with the blockbuster ending you would want, ending the story well for all the characters.
What I did like about the ending though are some very subtle things, such as the agency not looking so clear cut good guys, even after the story completes, but just by the smallest of details. Amongst the blockbuster-ness of some of these scenes there are some neat little details such as the phone movement monitor and the meaning behind it.
One final thing to mention is the music in the film which often feels like there are some rather odd choices made, but they all work and give a slightly away from the norm feel to some of the sequences. Eclectic but interesting and it worked well.
Knight and Day is a great film, action, adventure, thriller, and comedy all the way through, and well worth seeing for some great blockbuster entertainment with much more depth and breadth than the average Hollywood blockbuster.
Excitement is far from short in the fast driven story through which some really well choreographed and filmed action sequences race. Some of them will make you draw a breath or two, particularly some fight sequences that really make you think the actors are taking a pounding, but above all it never loses the comedy or thriller aspect, and it never feels as though the story is punctuated with another contractually obliged stunt.
However much the film relies on action and the main plot thread, the real driving factor is the relationship of the two leads of Cruise and Diaz, how you watch them draw closer to each other and how much you become committed to their characters. It's their relationship and chemistry that really pulls you in and drives you with the film, and they do it superbly.
My advice is for those of you who might not be going to see the film because of marketing to take a second look at it or just ignore the marketing altogether, and for those of you not going because Tom Cruise is in it, stop cutting off your nose to spite your face, you're missing out on a really good film and a ton of excitement and fun.
The audience were laughing during the screening, and at the right moments, and when we left we had that post-excitement feeling of having seen a film that genuinely let you have fun while you watched it.