Tuesday, June 22, 2010

[Movie Review] Knight & Day

I like movies. Actually, I love movies. And I've seen a lot of movies in my day. Yet, rarely have I enjoyed a movie more than I enjoyed Knight & Day. Perhaps never have I walked out of the theater so thoroughly satisfied. My wife and I don't get out alone together very often. We've got three little kids and it's only as they get a little older that we'd consider leaving them in the care of a hired sitter while we went out. So, until we make that leap, we rely on my parents to come watch them for us. With our busy schedule and theirs, this comes down to about four times each year. One of those times was last Saturday.

For most of the week prior to our date, I'd been scanning the movie showtimes trying to decide what to go and see. Our choices included things like Toy Story 3, the A-Team, Prince of Persia, Karate Kid 3 and Jonah Hex. None of these really leaped out at us as "must-see" hits, except maybe Toy Story, but we weren't about to go see that without the kids. Then I noticed something unusual - at 7:30 on Saturday night, there was one and only one showing of Knight & Day. We'd been seeing previews for this film for months and wanted to see it badly, so suddenly the choice was simple. I even used Fandango to buy our tickets in advance online (completely forgetting that I have gift cards to use at the theater. Ah well, they'll keep).

We had an outstanding date, capped off by the advanced screening of this new film, which officially opens on Wednesday, June 23rd. We got there ridiculously early because I wasn't sure how packed it would be (it's been years since I've been to a movie that wasn't a matinee), so we got the best seats in the house. This was good, because we were in for a hell of a ride and I'd have hated to be distracted by anything as mundane as the view.

Knight & Day is a complicated action-comedy that never resorts to pratfalls or goofiness. It's the story of a simple woman, played by Cameron Diaz, who literally bumps into a super-spy and ends up pulled into his adventures. Throughout the film, you're repeatedly charmed by both of the characters - Diaz is innocent and natural, doing her best to deal with the utterly unbelievable series of situations she's pulled into. Cruise is suave and sincere, continually re-convincing Diaz (and the audience) that he's the good-guy despite repeated twists and turns that bring his true motives into question.

The plot is complex and I'm going to endeavor not to give too much away. Diaz is the owner of a garage that restores classic cars and she's on her way home with parts for the '69 GTO she's fixing up as a wedding gift for her sister that weekend. Cruise is a spy who's either protecting valuable U.S. government assets that are at risk from traitors within his own agency, or else he's the rogue spy who has stolen those assets and is trying to sell them to an international arms dealer. Every time you think you know which is the truth about Cruise's character, there's a reversal that once more makes you question it. That ambiguity is just one part of the fun.

The other two parts of the fun are fun and fun. Because awesome action scenes are always fun, and clever humor is always fun, and Knight & Day is chock-full of both. Best of all, the film seamlessly mixes both of these into really hilarious action scenes. One great example that leaps to mind is a scene where Diaz is being escorted off by a troop of bad guy thugs. We see a glimpse of Cruise running through a nearby room, snatching up a bullwhip as he sprints past. We then cut back to the thugs, where Diaz (hopped up on truth serum) is aimlessly chit-chatting with the leader. From the back of the line, a whip snakes down from above and snatches each of the thugs away, one-by-one, until only the leader is left. It's a simple and yet hilariously funny scene, and that sort of comic action recurs throughout the movie, almost from beginning to end. It constantly whip-lashes your emotions between tenderness for the characters, laughter at their antics, and bug-eyed amazement at the stunts.

Naturally there's plenty of completely unbelievable action where except for pure luck the heroes would have found themselves splattered all over the pavement, but it's rarely so brazen as to be a distraction from the excitement of the film. The bad guys are also somewhat unimpressive, mostly serving more as targets than as fully fleshed-out characters. The exception is the Spanish arms dealer who, sadly, isn't in the movie nearly enough as his performance was quite good. The other main "bad guy" (or maybe he's the good guy - the film constantly makes you wonder!), played by Peter Saarsgard, is dull and uninteresting, especially in comparison to the leads.

In fact, the bad guys are completely overshadowed not just by the leads, but by the locations - Knight & Day spans the world, from Boston to Austria, the tropics to Spain and the result is visually lavish. It's hard to think of a better example of the different aspects of filmmaking all coming together so seamlessly.

I'm not sure a conclusion is even needed at this point, but I'm hard-wired to write one so here it is. See this movie. See it now or as soon as you reasonably can. You absolutely will not be disappointed. I loved it and, predictably, I'm giving it a full-blown A+.


  1. I was looking forward to your review of this movie and since I now have read it, I can hardly wait to see it. Great review.