Tom Cruise plays up to his reputation as a motor-mouth maniac in James Mangold’s Knight and Day, an intermittently distracting summer-season action-comedy-romance that crosses Jason Bourne with Jason Byrne.
Cruise plays Roy Miller, a highly-trained killing machine gone rogue from a secret government agency. We first meet Roy (as we first met Cruise’s other seemingly omnipotent killer Vincent in Collateral) as he walks through an airport. Roy is looking for a stooge to unwittingly carry something through security and finds her in Cameron Diaz’s June, a nervous car-mechanic. The switch made, the two get on their flight together, where Roy dazzles June with his teeth while she bats her eyelashes like a camel struggling through a sand storm. One unconvincingly-realised plane crash later, the two desperados are on the run. The rest of the plot, such as it is, circles around a manhunt for science-prodigy Simon Feck (Paul Dano), who has invented a super-strength battery that never runs out of juice. A nefarious Spanish weapons-dealer is desperate to get his hands on it, and has recruited someone crooked within the CIA to obtain it for him. The only thing standing in his way, and the musically named Mr Feck’s only hope, is the super-confident super-agent.
Since the day he jumped on Oprah’s couch in 2005, Cruise has watched his star plummet. No longer a sure-fire box office draw, his last four films have been critical and commercial disappointments; the superfluous Mission Impossible III, the po-faced Lions For Lambs and the officious Nazi drama Valkyrie all flopped. Knight And Day isn’t the film that will return Cruise to the top of the pile, but it is undoubtedly better scripted and more fun than anything we’ve seen from him lately. He gives an astute, energetic performance, fuelled at least in part by a degree of self-mockery, playing up to the public perception of him as an excitable, indefatigably positive weirdo. Like her co-star, Cameron Diaz badly needs a hit. There’s Something About Mary was a long time ago, but the actress is essentially playing the same part; a skittishly lovely foil for a floundering chatterbox, although this time she gets to shoot off a few guns.
The film’s greatest weakness is that once you get the joke, you get the joke. The perpetual-energy battery isn’t powerful enough to maintain momentum in the story, which comes to a standstill about half way through leaving the stars with nowhere to turn. The movie keeps going - and going - zipping from anonymous American cityscapes to snow-tipped Salzburg, via a sojourn in the Azores and a well-realised car-chase during a bull-run through a Spanish street. But all this mayhem-raising globe-trotting is for nothing; the lavish backdrops only highlight the paucity of what is happening up front. The chirpy banter between Cruise and Diaz is fun, for a while, but like the screen-filling pyrotechnics, the cacophonous shoot-outs and the blindingly obvious villainy, the thrill fades sooner than it should.