In the new action-comedy Knight and Day, June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is on her way home to Boston to attend her sister’s wedding when she literally runs into Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) at the airport. They end up on the same flight together from Kansas when Roy reveals himself to be a lethally efficient secret agent gone rogue. Although Roy tries to get June to safety several times, she nevertheless finds herself on the run with him.
They’re then pursued around the world by his former federal colleagues (including Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis), who believe he is out to sell a top-secret MacGuffin he’s acquired from a young scientific genius (Paul Dano) he was protecting. But the Feds aren’t the only ones after Roy and June; so is an international arms dealer (Jordi Molla) who also wants the device in Roy’s possession. Along the way, Roy and June just might find they’d be the ideal for each other … if they can survive.
The films of director James Mangold — such as Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, Girl, Interrupted, Kate & Leopold — show an inclination towards stories about two characters in an intense relationship or situation and Knight and Day is no exception, albeit it’s a far less serious endeavor than almost all of the aforementioned films.
Imagine if Jason Bourne was in a romantic comedy and you’d have an idea of what Knight and Day is going for. The movie not only borderline satirizes the Bourne and James Bond series, but also Cruise’s own screen persona as developed in the Mission: Impossible films. The “secret agent gone rogue” idea is an old staple of the genre, one that M:I, Bourne and Bond have all done at some point, and it’s married here with the “couple on the run” thriller a la The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, and Three Days of the Condor. Knight and Day is ultimately a very old-fashioned movie made with newfangled toys.
Knight and Day recycles tropes and characters we’ve seen in countless thrillers and action comedies, but it’s really just a vehicle for showcasing the star wattage of Cruise and Diaz. Cruise gets all the best moments and lines in the film, while Diaz manages to make her character at least likable enough to overcome some of her more shrill, grating moments. But this is Tom’s show all the way, and it shrewdly plays on the current perception of him as being a bit of a kook. Between this and Tropic Thunder, Cruise has wisely utilized humor as a way to ingratiate himself back into most people’s good graces after his couch-hopping incident.
But outside of the two leads, everyone else in the movie is relegated to being a thumbnail. Peter Sarsgaard is wasted as the lead agent after Cruise, while Paul Dano is likewise underutilized as the simple-minded genius (there’s an oxymoron) whose gizmo is what everyone’s after. Maggie Grace has a couple of small scenes as Diaz’s sister, while Marc Blucas gets the most out of his role as Diaz’s fireman ex.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in Knight and Day, with its knowing send-up of genre conventions, cheeky banter between leads and travelogue of settings, but it’s too light and breezy and too long for its own good. A little less time spent on the road would have gone a longer way here, but as is Knight and Day is an amiable enough time passer for couples on a date night.