Still Crazy Cakes After All These Years
Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn't live up to performance of Cruise. The casting of Cameron Diaz is not just atrocious, but a borderline 8th Amendment violation -- she represents the worst of the romantic comedy genre and -- because her character is so unrelentingly dumb -- she's also typical of a lot of horror-movie heroines. I don't know how many times during the movie the audience I sat with sighed a collective note of "Jesus, Lady" exasperation at her character's wanton dumbfuckery, but there were more than a couple of moments where a few moviegoers couldn't help themselves from yelling "Don't open the door!" as she opened the door for the eleventy billionth time. You can't buy that kind of stupid -- it has to be bred and imported from New Jersey.
James Mangold -- whose track record (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) doesn't suit this genre particularly well, doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, either. While the action sequences -- and there are plenty of them to keep the first half of Knight and Day moving -- are fun, the rest of the movie withers whenever Cruise and Diaz are asked to establish the romance. There's no chemistry between their characters, and to be honest, Tom Cruise has never had a particularly good chemistry with the women in his films (read into that what you'd like), and that's exacerbated where the romantic chemistry is meant to propel half the film. Moreover, Mangold is obsessed in K & D with the super-extreme close-up shots, and neither the 48-year-old face of Tom Cruise nor the blotchy skin of Cameron Diaz support shots tight enough to reveal their pores (I might note that there are very few actors over the age of 30 that warrant super-tight close ups that are then magnified by 100 on the big screen).
But for the first 45 minutes, and the last half hour (save for the cringy final scene), Knight and Day is as good a summer action film as you could ask. In the opening scenes, Roy Miller uses Cameron Diaz's June to sneak what we later find out is a perpetual energy battery onto a plane where -- as June is holed up in a bathroom plotting a mile-high session with Roy -- he kills everyone on board, including the pilots, before crash-landing the plane in a corn field. Roy drugs June to sleep (a repeating plot device in the film that allows Mangold -- because the film is told from June's perspective -- to back out of a lot of impossible traps without explanation) and the next morning, she wakes up in her Boston apartment, unsure of the previous night's events.
The reality of those events are soon confirmed, however, when federal agents -- led by Peter Sarsgaard's Agent Fitzgerald -- take June into custody, which leads to a PFA (pretty fucking awesome) series of action sequences on Boston's I-93, which almost justified by itself the $15 billion Big Dig project. There's little plot after that -- Roy Miller has to locate the inventor of the perpetual-energy battery (Paul Dano) and protect him from assassins, which basically gives Mangold an excuse to set up action sequences in a half-a-dozen different locations (a tropical island, a train in the Alps, Germany, and Spain), as Roy continues to protect June, while June continues to question Roy's intentions and make really fucking stupid decisions.
Ultimately, I liked Knight and Day, but I wish I could've liked it more. As one of four people in the known world who still likes Tom Cruise -- the actor -- my expectations were perhaps a little high, which perhaps shaded my slight disappointment in the film. I was willing to forgive Mangold's disjunctive and completely inappropriate stylism (I have no idea what he was going for, but whatever it was, it failed), the excessive use of green screens, the bad score, and, at times, the painful dialogue, because of Cruise's beguiling insanity. But it's next to impossible to forgive the weaknesses presented by Diaz -- both in character and in performance. It was Heiglian in its badness, and Knight and Day deserved a more appealing female lead with better comic timing and an ability to sell her action scenes -- a Charlize Theron, or Christina Applegate, or Jamie Lee Curtis in her prime. There are a lot of faults in Knight and Day, but while Cruise obscures them, Diaz exacerbates them.
All of which is to say: I'd give Knight and Day a soft recommend, but if you see it, wear one of those As Seen on TV Eye Patches that allow you to block out certain characters in movies, and set it on Cameron Diaz. The movie will be 72 percent better.