While watching Knight and Day I realized that I wasn’t really watching the movie so much as I was marking time. I was so bored by what was going on that I stopped paying attention and thinking about why the characters on screen were rushing around, fighting, and wisecracking so much. This movie is weighed down with a mess of heavy plot and weak characterization that makes for a below average clutter of things we’ve seen before done a whole lot better.
Cameron Diaz plays June Havens and is returning home to Boston from Wichita for her sister’s wedding. At the airport she runs into a handsome and charismatic stranger, Roy Miller (Tom Cruise). Roy uses June to smuggle something through security (classy) and once they are on the plane to Boston they strike up a conversation. She is instantly attracted to him, but as it turns out everyone on the plane (except June) is an agent out to get Roy and he kills all of them, including the two pilots. Roy crash lands the plane in a corn field and takes June to safety, but she inexplicably never asks Roy why he killed everyone or what is going on. This was just the first of many signs that I was going to have trouble with this movie. Despite her lack of curiosity June still gets caught up in Roy’s world of international intrigue and espionage. Everyone seems to be after a battery Roy has that never loses its juice (Hitchcock’s famous MacGuffin), but again, June never asks; she just sits back and lets everything happen around her. They end up on a tropical island, the Alps of Austria, and Spain, and while the locations are beautiful to look at, I just kept wishing there wasn’t so much busy nonsense going on in front of it.
Cameron Diaz’s performance is a bright spot despite the movie’s regressive attitudes about gender. She upstages Cruise every chance she has, but it’s a shame her character is written as such a dope. If she had had an ounce of intelligence this movie might have gone somewhere, but she’s frustratingly dumb and almost always passively reacts to what is going on around her. I wonder why Diaz thought the script, as written, was worth her time when she is capable of much better. She would have profited by asking why women are, in the year 2010, still written as bumbling idiots who need a man to guide and protect them through life? Even later in the movie her plan to save Roy goes no further than getting kidnapped by the bad guys and waiting for him to rescue her. That is mindless.
As for Cruise, this is the same stuff he has always done and usually does well: the smart, sexy, slightly crazy, but ultimate force for good. Here it wasn’t fresh and it wasn’t charming. Everyone thinks Cruise is crazy anyway so why not play with that? If screenwriter Patrick O’Neill and director James Mangold had had any courage they would have exploited Cruise’s perceived insanity. Make Roy Miller a nut. Cut out all the cloak and dagger nonsense and turn him into a benevolent paranoid rogue agent. If Roy lived in a spy’s fantasyland and operated as sort of a cross between Jason Bourne and Inspector Clouseau then the story might have had some wit to it (and it would have forced O’Neill to write June more intelligently). But no, Mangold and O’Neill were dead set on a semi-serious plot (that is a real snoozer) and action! action! action! There are lots of earnest action sequences that don’t pay off in any significant way because we don’t care a bit about anything going on. Even Peter Sarsgaard, an actor I normally like, as a corrupt CIA (?) agent is just going through the paces. His character is boring and his performance adds nothing compelling.
So at every turn we get something boring. All the effort seems to have gone into the action and special effects which are fine, but the movie doesn’t take the time to build attractive and believable characters or insert them into situations we care about (why is it so awful that a Spanish arms dealer might get this battery?). Without a truly menacing villain and likeable leads the movie just falls apart.