Knight And Day (12A)

view gallery VIEW GALLERY
1.00

Cruise control is on the blink

Unhappily matched fugitives who crack wise while dodging mortal danger has been a cinematic staple at least since
The 39 Steps in 1935, and it perhaps had its finest hour when Cary Grant led Audrey Hepburn a merry and mischievous dance through Stanley Donen's
Charade (1963). Film-makers have been trying to replicate this type of caper-comedy-romance for years, and flubbing it. This year we've already had Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl mugging through the awful Killers, and now, handling a much larger budget, James Mangold tries his luck with
Knight and Day. How I wish I could continue without a sigh.

Mangold has had an intermittently interesting career, starting with his debut feature, Heavy, and encompassing a decent police thriller ( CopLand) and a creditable remake of a Western ( 3:10 to Yuma). So he knows how to do drama. The comedy and the romance, however, are much trickier propositions, and he's hindered rather than helped by the return of Tom Cruise to action-hero mode for the first time since Mission: Impossible 3 in 2006. Cruise plays Roy Miller, a rogue CIA agent who meets-cute with June Havens (Cameron Diaz) on a flight out of Wichita airport. She's on her way home for her sister's wedding, little suspecting the trouble ahead. Having single-handedly killed a bunch of enemies plus the two pilots, Roy crashlands the plane in the middle of a cornfield and then takes ditzy June hostage as they go on the run.

It transpires that Roy has hold of a battery gizmo, which, despite its miniature size, can power a whole city without recharging. (Hasn't Apple already invented one of these?) It's the invention of a pale-faced geek played by Paul Dano, who has been a shadow of his former self since There Will Be Blood. The "bad guys" who want it are led by a Spanish arms dealer (Jordi Mollà), while the "worse guys" are goons led by a CIA bad apple, played with almost a yawn in his voice by Peter Sarsgaard.

When Robert Donat handcuffed Madeleine Carroll to him to make sure she didn't stray from his side in The 39 Steps, it was perverse and kinky – a Hitchcockian play on the erotic thrill of dominance. It's a sign of the times that Roy binds his reluctant partner to him by knocking her out cold with drugs at various stages in the story. This allows the film to switch arbitrarily from one location to another – a South Pacific island, a trans-Alpine express, a stopover in Salzburg – without ever convincing us there's a reason for any of them. Late in the film, the couple are being chased down a street in Seville, when from the opposite direction comes a stampede of bulls. At this point I expected at least a good gag about bulls (Will they pursue Roy and June through a china shop?) but no, it's just there as a dose of tourist exotica to divert the popcorn-munchers. Heaven forbid they were actually given something to think about...



Video: Knight and Day premiere

Patrick O'Neill's script can't keep up with the plot's switchback moves. He simply hasn't the wit for lines that, say, a Cary Grant might use to cajole a woman (and an audience) into sticking with him for the ride. And even if he had the lines, would we believe them coming out of Tom Cruise's mouth? Cruise seems to think that just flashing his megawatt smile will make a woman melt, but it looks more like smarm than charm, and the fact that he feels it necessary to drug the lady suggests a profound distrust of the female sex.

His character is meant to be a loose cannon – you know, like, "craaay-zee" – but all you get from Cruise is a strutting, self-absorbed projection of control. Perhaps he should have jumped up and down on a sofa or something, because Roy doesn't cut it either as a wild card or man of mystery. Diaz is sweetly game, and matches Cruise for toothiness; she also knows the score after going through a kidnap comedy years ago in A Life Less Ordinary. Hers is a shoddily written part, all the same: she's supposed to be a great mechanic, yet as soon as she gets a machine- gun in her hands she sprays bullets around in a shrieking, girly style that says, "D'oh – women!"

And what about that title? "Knight" turns out to be the surname of Roy's parents – who think he's dead, by the way, but let's not get into that. So how about "Day"? Could that be June's surname, thus making them an "aptly named" pair? No, because she's June Havens, as we already know. I puzzled over this for a while, thinking I'd missed something, but in the end it comes down to feebleness of imagination. "Day" is there only because the film-makers couldn't think of anything else that went with "Knight". A good one might have been "Knight's Move", as in chess, which would indicate the hero's ability to escape from closed positions. Or "Knight Flight", given how often he uses airlines. But no, it's Knight and Day.

Maybe it doesn't deserve a better title. Though aimed at an older demographic, and a notionally higher IQ, it is in the same galumphing manner as last week's The A-Team, a loud, frenetic and poorly written action movie that could have tried harder to entertain us, or at least tried not to insult our intelligence so flagrantly. At the moment, even that modest ambition looks like the Hollywood blockbuster's mission impossible.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits