Cruise and Diaz make all.
Charm. It’s an element that seems to be sorely lacking in movies these days. And not just in films that are primarily romantic in nature. Charm used to be a quality required of most action stars as well. It is a reason many of us loved Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan, and something the current Bond films and even the well executed Bourne films have nearly excised completely.
Which is what makes “Knight and Day” so refreshing. In actuality, it’s a snappy comedy dressed up by its high voltage action sequences. This is in no small part thanks to the charisma of leads Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. (They were also good together in 2001’s weirdly watchable “Vanilla Sky.”) Also credit the steady hand of director James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”) who keeps things on the fringe of parody without losing control.
Cruise is Roy Miller, a super-spy who may have gone rogue, who meets and falls in instant like with attractive Bostonian and classic car restorer June Havens (Diaz). When the story’s MacGuffin appears (insider movie term-look it up!), in this case a “C” battery-sized perpetual energy source called the “Zephyr,” Roy is either the good guy or bad guy and June is his reluctant accomplice. The pair flies, rides, shoots, runs, and drives to keep a step ahead of a dour FBI agent (Peter Sarsgaard) and an all-business CIA director (Viola Davis).
What keeps “Knight and Day” from being a shallow mess (see this year’s “Killers”) is the witty repartee of the two stars-Roy is as polite as he is adept at killing people, while June remains relentlessly likeable despite her shrieky protestations at being thrown in dangerous situations and even drugged for her own good. (A humorous device unto itself because we never know in what kind of situation she may wake up to find herself.)
There seems to exist some kind of inexplicable anti-Cruise sentiment, but hopefully “Knight and Day” will silence those who put too much stock in one outburst on Oprah’s couch, which now seems quaint. All Cruise does is make terrific films that happen to, not coincidentally, do boffo box office. His last few films include “Tropic Thunder,” “Valkyrie,” “War of the Worlds,” “The Last Samurai,” and “Mission Impossible: 3.”
In fact, “Knight and Day” may be one of those rare Cruise projects that struggles to cover its cost primarily because of terrible release timing in a crowded month for summer blockbusters. That would be a shame because with globe-hopping élan to spare, some nifty chase scenes (one in Seville in particular), and impressive stunts that are no more or less preposterous than most films of this genre, “Knight and Day,” like its leads has the ever illusive chemistry most films would kill for.
Rated PG-13 (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content)