4 stars, (PG-13)
Knight and Day is a comedy/action-adventure flick about a small-town woman who gets involved in the exploits of a superspy on the run. It's lots of fun, primarily because the filmmakers understand how to best present co-lead actor Tom Cruise.
During his appearances on talk shows and in TV interviews over the years, Cruise has often come off as the man trying way too hard to be a charming guy. A normal guy. He's the man with the vice-like grip during a handshake, looking at you dead in the eye because he's sincere, by Gosh! He's the man who leans forward in his chair too far when he talks. He laughs too hard at most everything, even when the comment or situation isn't all that funny. When the subject turns serious, he instantly shifts to serious-subject mode, peering at you intensely as he enunciates with machine-like precision because that's what real, down-to-earth guys do in a meaningful conversation, sir! With so much contained energy and so many over-calculated mannerisms, he comes off like a jailed psycho desperately trying to convince the parole board that he isn't crazy anymore.
Fortunately in Knight and Day, we mostly see events through the eyes of ditsy, but capable June Havens (Cameron Diaz, using her silly side to fine effect without overdoing it). She bumps into Roy Miller (Cruise) at the Wichita airport, and the movie works because we see Cruise's character as she sees him -- a handsome fellow with impeccable manners who appears to be the perfect man, except for that loony, throbbing, barely-controlled energy reminiscent of Bruce Banner in the last few moments before he transforms into the Hulk.
As seen from Havens' point of view, all the traits that make Cruise a squirm-inducing talk show guest make him a fascinating, enigmatic, appealing character. He keeps popping into her life; so charming, so courtly, so exotic and dangerous. Havens' knows being associated with Miller could get her killed, but damned if he isn't so charismatic that he brings out her inner-adventurer. What a treat it is to see Cruise as a movie star again, flashing that million-dollar grin and making it work.
Directed by James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) from a screenplay by Patrick O'Neill, Knight and Day is packed with action scenes. Never mind the CGI and stuntmen, it pays off. There's a plot: Secret agent Miller has an object other people want and he may or may not be the good guy he says he is. Don't even think about logic - you'll just get annoyed. This isn't a movie for thinking, it's one for enjoying. The filmmakers establish their lack of interest in logic by repeatedly putting the lead characters into situations where there appears to be no way out, then having someone (Havens, mostly) get hit with a tranquilizer dart and pass out, only to wake up in another location.
The impressive supporting cast includes Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Viola Davis and Paul Dano. They're all underutilized, especially Dano, but they make the most of their limited screen time. And after all, this is a star vehicle, with Cruise and Diaz filling the screen so nicely that you don't worry much about anything else. I didn't expect to like Knight and Day. Everything from the cheesy title to the presence of Mr. Cruise put me off. But I had a fine time. Don't think, just enjoy.