– Summary –
Director : James Mangold
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Falk Hentschel, Marc Blucas, Lennie Loftin, Maggie Grace, Gal Gadot, Dale Dye, Jack O’Connell.
Approx Running Time : 120 Minutes
Synopsis: Tom Cruise plays a secret agent, Cameron Diaz plays a woman caught up in his machinations to steal/save a new power source, and they must both avoid capture from both the FBI and a Spanish drug cartel.
What we think : This film has the stability and consistency of runny custard. Characters are poorly developed (if at all), the script is devoid of real comedy or drama, making this film either a badly unfunny comedy or a hilariously inept action romp, about the only thing going for it is that Cruise dons his Ethan Hunt character once more (albeit in a fat-free version) and blows stuff up real good. Avoid unless there’s nothing better to do.
There’s nothing better than sticking a DVD in the player, sitting back with a drink and a few friends, and enjoying the latest brainless action romp to come out of Hollywood. There’s nothing worse that sitting there thinking just how stupid the entire film is, and beginning to detest whoever it was that chose the film in the first place. Knight & Day, starring Tom Couch-Jumper Cruise and Cameron Looking-For-Another-Charlie’s-Angels-Franchise Diaz, is just such a film. A Hollywood monstrosity conceived, written and produced almost entirely by a series of committee meetings so bereft of integrity you can feel the stupidity leeching from the screen. “Directed”, and I use the term in its loosest possible sense, by James Mangold, a man whose credits include Girl, Interrupted, Walk The Line and the remake of 3:10 To Yuma, has delivered a big-budget turkey of such monumental proportions it makes Battlefield Earth seem like The Godfather. True story. How a director of Mangolds calibre even thought his name should appear in the credits after the final screening for the studio has me scratching my head. Did nobody watch this film before it was released to a mass audience, in time to print up “warning, this film is shite” posters?
The plot, such as it is, seems intent on having Cruise and Diaz appear in as many scenes together for no apparent reason other than their name is on the poster for the film. Cruize plays Roy, a supposed “secret” agent who has possession of a new power source that threatens to destabilise many energy companies around the world: and he’s supposedly gone rouge from the FBI. He hooks up with ditzy June Havens (possibly the most inappropriate last name for her character ever) on a flight to Boston, where he kills the entire crew and passenger complement before crash landing the plane and putting June back in her bed, with only the haziest of memories about her adventure. Sure enough, the FBI are soon on her tail, trying to attain the power source (known as The Zephyr) for themselves, and thus begins a cat-and-mouse game of chasey between various agencies and criminal organisations (for Gods sake, why a Spanish drug cartel?) for the length of the film. Various shoot-outs, chases and explosions occur, all in some sort of predictable order as decreed by the script. According to the Internet, that most auspicious of reliable information sources, this film apparently dwelled in the dreaded “development hell” for an eternity before being breach-birthed onto cinema screens, and it shows. Knight & Day has the hallmarks of multiple writers, multiple producers and multiple studio heads all putting in their three cents worth, from a script filled with inconsistent characters, to annoying plot contrivances and a cliche rate bordering on the Facebook user tally.
Here’s my advice to Hollywood studios sitting on a property stuck in development hell. If you get to writer number seven, and direct number three or four, then perhaps it’s time to cut your losses and get out while you can. Much like the abortion that was going to be Tim Burton’s Superman, Knight & Day went through several iterations before they settled on this. This! Can you believe a major studio would put out such trite, gormless rubbish and dare to get you to pay for it? They do, and they did. It didn’t matter than Cameron Diaz was forced to act like a complete imbecile for the majority of the film, and that Tom Cruise must have had “his grin is to be considered a lethal weapon” written into his contract, but that they both took a pay-check for this drivel smacks of a lack of conviction in their ability to do better. Tom. Cameron. Next time you sign up for a film that’s had this much trouble prior to you getting there, turn and run like hell.
June Havens is an idiot. One of those frustrating cinematic creations who behaves in such a way to move the story forward but at the cost of alienating the audience by being… well, a cretin. She willingly ignores the most basic human drive for survival, goes against the instructions of Roy’s charming uber-spy – the kind of character you end up hoping cops a bullet to make the film end faster. Roy, as played by the mega-smile Cruise, is charming and aloof, much like James Bond should be (and currently is with Mr D Craig in the role) and swats aside “bad guys” like Arnie in a munitions dump – with little effort at all. It’s derivative in the most, inspired in the least, and if your eyes don’t roll back in your head the umpteenth time he gives June drugs to knock her out so he can keep her safe, you’re doing better than I did. Mangold tries to inhabit the film’s less impressive dialogue moments with some sort of fanciful Tarantino-esque cool, but ends up just allowing what little semblance of story this film may have had to slip by in a blaze of mediocrity. Cruise and Diaz have the screen chemistry of a death row rapist, and the sexual tension between them is so un-sexual it’s like watching a Catherine Brelliat film. Normally excellent actor Peter Sarsgaard is reduced to a prototype Tommy-Lee-Jones-in-The-Fugitive character, complete with no-necked thugs to do his dirty work, while the stunning Maggie Grace appears in an extended cameo as June’s sister. What a waste. Characters move through the film with no organic development whatsoever; instead, you get the sense that they all do what they do because the script says it must be so, with little thought to whether it makes any sense or not. It matter little anyway, because Knight & Day has the impeccable honour of being such a gross waste of time and money you end up just letting it wash over you like so much white noise.
As you’d expect from a mega-watt waste of time such as this, the production values on the film are of the highest order. The polish and sheen on Knight & Day almost (frickin’ almost) keeps this film from becoming a genuine debacle, and the sure hand of Mangold on the camera ensures that if nothing else, the stars look good doing their stuff. The film is edited like many Hollywood action blockbusters – the frenetic multi-cut action beats interspersed with more languid “character” moments, rounding out at anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes of zesty, dazzlingly well produced tripe. John Powell’s decent score is hammered into oblivion by a soundtrack filled with gunfire, trains, planes, and automobiles chasing, exploding or otherwise being operated in a way that voids any and all warranties, and before too long you’re simply overwhelmed with just how underwhelming it all is. It’s so much white noise, peppered with the winning smiles of Diaz and Cruise.
Knight & Day doesn’t have much going for it when it comes to a decent story, good characterisation or anything resembling an examination of the human condition. Even as a routine, by-the-numbers action film it does tend towards feeling a little self-important, which limits its re-watchability. Come to think of it, the film flat out has no re-watch factor whatsoever. It’s a “oncer”, a film you would only ever watch once, and then forget, which is disappointing, because I’d expected a lot more from a team so well oiled as the one working on this film. Knight & Day is has just enough action to keep the beer-swiggers happy, a small dose of “character” development, and the winning ways of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz – if none of this is your cup of tea, I suggest skipping this film altogether and moving on to something else. Hell, save the effort and move on anyway.