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Knight and Day ($150M)

Written by Subject: Entertainment: Movies
The Internet Movie Database Review:  6.7/10
Film Critic Review:  3/5
Summary:  June Havens finds her everyday life tangled with that of a secret agent who has realized he isn't supposed to survive his latest mission. As their campaign to stay alive stretches across the globe, they soon learn that all they can count on is each other.

Synopsis: A fugitive couple (Cruise and Diaz) set of on a glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure where nothing and no one - even themselves - are what they seem. Amid shifting alliances and unexpected betrayals, they race across the globe, with their survival ultimately hinging on the battle of truth vs. trust.

Why We're Excited: Diaz and Cruise are an interesting combo – their dysfunctional relationship in Vanilla Sky was one of the more intriguing parts of that messy flick. And both are looking to ignite career resurgences, so that could mean more energy, more anything-goes bravado and less movie-star posturing. And Cruise is always best when playing slightly demented.

Why We're Not: A lot of sound and fury (and screaming) signifying nothing? Let’s hope there’s a story there along with tons of action set pieces. And director Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) isn’t exactly known for his light touch.

Of the dozen or so studio summer extravaganzas that have landed on screens thus far this year, excluding animated features, James Mangold's Knight and Day strikes me as the most entertaining and, inarguably, the nimblest of the lot. Like the super-spy-cum-wrong-man who is seen wantonly devouring a Drumstick in its opening moments, the film is kinetic, loose, and completely ludicrous, but also directed with efficient drive and ample humor. At a runtime circling the two-hour mark, it remains light on its feet even in its down moments, when it has to deal with the more inexorable mechanisms of its sub-Hitchcockian plotline.

Several of the master's prime cuts, from The 39 Steps to Notorious and North by Northwest, are easily recognizable as part of Knight and Day's derivative DNA: A game of cat-and-mouse on an Austrian train, an aerial attack on a secluded island, a chase scene coinciding with a bull run in Sevilla and a Macguffin codenamed the Zephyr. Even more prevalent than the set-pieces are the blue eyes and unkempt blonde hair of Cameron Diaz, who at her better moments recalls a raucous-yet-casual update of Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman. Diaz plays June Havens, an ace auto mechanic flying back from Kentucky to her home in Boston with scrap parts; she's rebuilding her late father's cherry GTO as a wedding present for her little sister.

All is well in June's world, it would seem, until she (literally) bumps into the aforementioned super spy, Roy Miller, played with willing and wide-eyed playfulness by Tom Cruise. After some flirtatious talk of their international "to-do" list, June kisses Roy on a whim, before realizing that he has murdered the rest of the crew and passengers. June becomes Roy's ward as they outwit two pursuers: Roy's double-crossing ex-partner (Peter Sarsgaard) and a Spanish arms dealer (Jordi Mollà, essentially in the same role he played in Bad Boys 2). Both are looking for the Zephyr, the first self-renewing energy source on Earth, but will settle for Simon Feck (Paul Dano), the creator of the Zephyr and Roy's friend.     

Like any summer picture worth its CGI budget, Knight and Day doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's fully aware of this fact. What raises Mangold's film head and shoulders above the rest of the hogwash (namely: The A-Team, Iron Man 2) is that its jovial disregard for a world ruled by logic becomes nearly its entire premise. The script, written by relative newcomer Patrick O'Neill, allows the protagonist to share the audience's disbelief throughout. In essence, the film walks a very fine line between self-awareness and self-congratulation that makes all the difference with a thoroughbred entertainment.

Mangold proves adept at this sort of lunacy but his biggest assets here are Cruise and Diaz. Like Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in Tony Gilroy's obscenely underrated Duplicity, they have natural chemistry and throw themselves headlong into every set-piece, every ridiculous line of dialogue, and every breezy plot twist Mangold and O'Neill throw their way. Indeed, a great deal of why the film is so fun is that both actors seem to be enjoying themselves, and their exchanges are far more sexy and buoyant than the standard-issue love story usually allows. Diaz, who has long been undervalued critically, shows commendable timing and playfulness. More importantly, Knight and Day reminds us that, away from a real life rife with madness, Cruise still has that certain ineffable something that makes movies like this run like a vintage deuce coupe.

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