Middle Row, Centre: Knight and Day is Just Fun … OK?

I have a theory about Tom Cruise.

I think that ever since his episode of jumping on Oprah’s couch some five years ago, and going prime-time with his Scientology allegiance, the mainstream media knives have been out for him. No matter how good the movies he makes are, he can look for disappointing box office as a consequence.

Sounds paranoid, huh? Maybe not.

Case in point: I’ve seen a lot worse films this spring and summer than Cruise’s latest outing, Knight And Day, and most of them did better at the box office than it has.

Cruise can’t seem to buy a good review for the film, and its box office showing has been disappointing, as compared to the likes of the Toy Story sequel, or even The Last Airbender.

Yet, Knight And Day isn’t a bad film. Sure, there’s some pretty preposterous sequences in it, for which the film has been criticized. But let’s flash back 30 years ago or so, to the height of the James Bond craze. Sean Connery got away with some pretty preposterous stuff, too, but nobody slagged him.

I think that Cruise has gotten a bum rap, and that it has little to do with the quality of his films.

Knight And Day pairs Cruise with Cameron Diaz, and they don’t make a bad team at all.

Cruise plays Roy Miller, a nondescript assumed name for an intelligence agent who is far from nondescript.

As the film opens, Miller and June Havens, played by Diaz, are boarding a flight. She’s on her way to her sister’s wedding in Boston, and is told just before boarding that the flight is overbooked, and there’s no room for her.

A chance encounter with Miller over her luggage proves to be more than meets the eye, and she’s told at the last minute that inexplicably there is room for her after all.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the flight proves to be a setup engineered by the CIA to possibly eliminate Miller, whom company brass suspect has “gone rogue”.

Miller deals with the situation in a series of dazzling moves that display his super-agent conditioning and dexterity. From that point on, the chase begins, and Havens transitions from being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, to someone who is quite helpful to Miller in eluding his pursuers.

It’s not until well into the film that we learn what all the fuss is about. The CIA, and possibly some foreign interests, are after a revolutionary new energy source, invented by a young man barely out of high school, who is totally terrified by all of the brouhaha around him.

Our man Cruise has taken the boy under his wing, but the CIA suspects their agent on the run of double-dealing. Diaz doesn’t know quite what to make of him either, and doesn’t know if she should trust him.

It all forms the backdrop for an international chase, from Boston to the Caribbean, to Austria, to Spain and points in between, in the best Bond tradition. The film is fast-paced, with the usual car chases and shoot-’em-ups, but somehow Cruise’s good humour and suave demeanour pull it off, as if he knows how preposterous it all is, but is still up for the game.

He and Diaz really carry the show, and the rest of the cast is pretty faceless, consisting of carbon-copy CIA goons and the terrified young inventor, played by Paul Dano from There Will Be Blood, who doesn’t do much more than cower and whimper.

Director James Mangold, whose Walk The Line and Girl, Interrupted were Oscar-winning vehicles for Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie respectively, coaxes satisfying performances from Cruise and Diaz, who teamed up previously in Vanilla Sky some 10 years back.

They apparently did most of their own stuntwork for Knight and Day, and they carry it off well.

A great film it isn’t, to be sure, but it’s satisfying summertime entertainment, which says a lot this summer.

Knight And Day plays at the Qwanlin Cinema at 7:00 and 9:15 p.m., and is rated PG for violence and coarse language.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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