#758 - KNIGHT AND DAY
As I walked (well, hobbled) out of the theatre last Friday night I couldn't help but ponder the title. KNIGHT AND DAY. One part is fully explained in the film, and I suppose you could extrapolate the rest, but there was still a piece missing in the explanation. (It was of no surprise to me whatsoever that KNIGHT AND DAY was a compromise title, after several others were tried and rejected.)
Movie titles seldom have much to do with our enjoyment of movies, and it certainly did not "hold me back" in this case. It was just an odd thing, something I expected to be wrapped up a little tighter. No big deal, but just a little less than it could have been.
You're smart people. I'm betting you already guessed why I mention the title at the outset. That's right. My views there pretty much reflect how I felt about KNIGHT AND DAY in general: the film was enjoyable, and for the most part clicked. Parts of it did not, and this really did not hamper me from having a good time, yet it could have been a little tighter, a little more....something.
The trick to enjoying KNIGHT AND DAY, in my opinion, is to properly understand that, no matter what the marketing, this is NOT an action film. Oh, sure, there's plenty of action in it, but if you're going in looking for the usual testosterone-fueled mayhem, you're not likely to come away happy.
I think KNIGHT AND DAY is absolutely without question a Chick Flick. I'm convinced of it. Cameron Diaz plays June Havens, who works on classic cars (partly out of connection to her late father), and is so committed to quality that she's willing to fly to Wichita to pick up parts rather than have them shipped to her in Boston. Frankly, if you can believe someone who looks like Cameron Diaz would work as a mechanic on classic cars or fly to Kansas to get parts you can buy anything else that happens.
Cameron is getting closer to 40 in real life, and while still a gorgeous woman, chooses to show a bit of her age. One close-up in particular showed off those lines by the eyes - what are those called....crow's nest or something? Crowfoot? (Something Native-American, if I recall.) I mention this not to be sexist, but because it's so unusual for a movie to admit that any starring woman is over 25. This is what clued me into the true nature of the film.
After June runs into Roy Miller (Cruise), it quickly becomes apparent he's a dangerous killer, as in, he kills everyone else on an airplane they're both on and crash-lands it into a corn-field. (This is NOT a spoiler; it's in the trailer, and besides, if you get upset about learning that, you really don't understand the nature of chick-flicks.)
What cracked me up is that June is only mildly concerned about the fact that every time Roy shows up every seems to keep getting killed. She's more concerned with whether he likes her, and if she will miss her opportunity to kiss him and enjoy life, etc. It's quite hilarious and a great metaphor for a single-woman's dwindling choices as the years pass. (Do NOT get pissed at me ladies; you know I speak (well, write) Truth.)
I've read reviews that say Cruise and Diaz have no chemistry, but those reviewers must all abuse sick animals in their spare time, because I thought the two of them are terrific together. I've never been the world's biggest Cameron Diaz fan, but here she has an easy comic timing and rhythm. She reminded me of THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY in the way she seemed quite natural.
As for Cruise...well, I am on record as being a huge fan of his movies. I even wrote an angry column 5 years ago when the whole world turned against him. I judge my desire to see his movies not by speculation on his personal life but by whether his movies are awesome - which they almost always are. I think you could easily put Cruise up against any star of the last 30 years and his best stuff would hold up. (That's actually a good idea; someone remind me and we will do that next week.)
Undermining my "no psychobabble" stance of last paragraph, I did want to mention something interesting about Cruise's character Roy Miller. The film had over 12 different people work on the script (which may well be reflected in the slight lack of total cohesion, which is a legitimate criticism), and also had many different people slated to star at some point, including Chris Tucker, Adam Sandler and Gerard Butler. Hard to imagine Tucker and Sandler pulling off the character, and when I looked into things more I saw that when Cruise came aboard he had quite a few changes made to his Roy Miller. (This is pretty standard when stars sign on to a movie, especially a popcorn flick like this.)
What's interesting about it is that Roy Miller is a killer, efficient and professional, almost ridiculously skilled. He's also extraordinarily helpful. He is so kind to June even as her world is falling apart (or he's kidnapping her, or drugging her, etc.), trying to help her get by. Another time he has to shoot a man to keep him from following, but catches him and helps break the fall, and then keeps him encouraged by telling the guy he'll probably get promoted for heroism.
It sounds corny as all get-out, but this actually rang true for me, with what I know of Cruise. In this month's Esquire Magazine there is a very interesting profile of Cruise that's mostly him in his own words. As a kid Cruise had no dad around and a mom struggling to get by to take care of Tom and his sisters. Early on Cruise was always the one to "take care" of things, whether that meant working as a kid to bring in extra money, or keeping the girls entertained with jokes and stories. It's a great article, because it helps explain Cruise so much.
And it explains why Cruise would be drawn to Roy Miller, and play him the way he does. I won't tell you the details (there are some cool surprises), but I was struck again and again how important it was for Miller to "take care" of the people he loved. One of the catch-phrases that comes up again and again stems from this need to provide - "I Got This." Sure it's a cutesy thing to put in a movie, but amazingly, it works.
Would I recommend this film? My brother and I enjoyed it, but I'd be lying if I said it was one of Cruise's best. Still, it was fun to watch, and if you want to get the most out of it, my recommendation would be to take a woman to see it, under slight duress. That way you get the credit for seeing one of her "chick flicks" with her but can still enjoy it. (Afterward you can talk about how hard it is for a single woman out there that they're forced to consider super-spy killers for boyfriends. She'll get mad but actually be happy you're talking about woman and relationships, about which she will have umpteen opinions. Trust me.)
After the movie come up with some way to do something she might normally do, and when you do it, look her in the eye and smile and say, "I Got This."
You'll be in like Flynn.
Credits and Specs
Directed by James Mangold
Written by Patrick O'Neill (and at least 12 others)
Also featuring: Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Marc Blucas, Maggie Grace, Jordi Molla
Runtime: 110 minutes
Hyperion's Rating Guide
Suspension of Disbelief: 10 out of 10 - This is pure James Bond "Invincible Spy" territory, without an ounce of worry for realism. Think "Alias" (but happy-go-lucky instead of Dark) for realism.
Genre Grade: If we grade this on the Action/Spy Field, only a B or B-. However, as you see in my review, I put this firmly in the "Chick Flick+" camp, meaning a Chick Flick plus some stuff for guys, and by that standard (a girl's movie she can get her guy to see), I'd go A-. Not a Miranda in sight.
Objectionable Material? - The violence is cartoonish, there's no sex or nudity and not much language; I wouldn't have any problem with Middle School and up.
Pantheon Percentile: The idea here is to rank the movie compared to all other movies ever made before it. (For example, a completely average movie would be 50% better than the rest and score a 50.) KNIGHT AND DAY was above average, fun to watch, and will probably hold up fairly well on a TBS/TNT rotation. But I'm not standing in line for the DVD. 71.
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