Note: This review incorporates and greatly expands on my initial theatrical review of Knight and Day.
Knight and Day features two bona fide movie stars with great chemistry between them on a romantic adventure that takes them all over the world, from one exotic location to another–and from one thrilling action setpiece to another. It’s the sort of epic spectacle spy movie that we just don’t get anymore–a throwback to the over-the-top late Connery/Moore era of Bond movies. (In fact, its points of parodic reference may have been too old to resonate with lots of average moviegoers.) If you like spy movies that feature both tropical paradises and snowy Alpine streets (I do!), then you will enjoy Knight and Day.
the Transporter movies and their neo-Eurospy ilk the heirs to the daffy action of the Roger Moore Bonds. Knight and Day also fits that bill, but on a much larger Hollywood budget. It follows the Eurospy “kitchen sink” pattern of how to imitate 007 (pack in as many exotic locations as possible into a short amount of time, pile on one over-the-top action scene after another, and set multiple factions after the same ridiculous Macguffin), but it’s clearly a Hollywood product. In other words, it offers the best of both worlds when it comes to delivering Bond-like adventure in an openly sub-Bond, tongue-in-cheek fashion.
Tom Cruise plays Roy Miller (not the same Roy Miller Matt Damon played in another 2010 spy movie, Green Zone), who is either a maverick CIA agent who’s been forced to go renegade by villainous elements in his own organization, or a crazy person. Carmeron Diaz plays June Havens, an innocent bystander swept up into his maelstrom who’s not sure which story to believe. He certainly has secret agent skills, but he also acts pretty crazy.
Charade or North By Northwest, but that’s the tone it’s going for and generally succeeds at. It’s an action/adventure with a light but compelling romantic relationship at its center–and plenty of comedy. It reminded me a lot of James Cameron’s True Lies, which also built a succession of exciting, over-the-top, Bond-inspired setpieces around a central relationship. The action (heavily reliant on rather blatant CG) may not be up to Cameron’s standards, but overall I prefer the tone of Knight and Day and the chemistry between its stars.
John Glen) is a welcome breath of fresh air at a time when the trend is to shoot and cut action sequences so fast and furiously that the viewer can neither comprehend the action nor savor the location. (I’m looking at you, Quantum of Solace!)
score when what was really called for was Bondian bombast–or at least Powell’s own contemporary brand of bombast which I was just praising last week in my Fair Game review. Tom Cruise himself was seen as a liability (and his supposed–and erroneous–inability to open a film these days apparently led to an overhaul of the next Mission: Impossible movie), but he really isn’t at all. I’m not a very big fan of Cruise anymore (like most of America, apparently), but he puts his all into this role and delivers a genuinely charming performance. If bigger audiences tune in on DVD and Blu-ray than did in the theaters, they’ll quickly forget whatever issues they have with the actor outside of his movies. So Cruise may have been billed as a drawback in the media, but he isn’t at all. The title Knight and Day may have been–and it’s never adequately explained in the film. (It still beats the awful working title of Wichita, but surely they could have come up with something better!) Oh well. Whatever Fox wants to call it, this is a thoroughly entertaining spy movie that rewards fans of the genre with the genre’s most famous hallmarks: fantastic locations, over-the-top action and grand escapism.
The special features on Fox’s DVD and Blu-ray combo, unfortunately, aren’t much to write home about. “Wilder Knights and Crazier Days” is the meatiest of several featurettes at a whopping 12 minutes, but you won’t get any serious insights into the filmmaking process. It’s mostly tepid and generic EPK (Electronic Press Kit, generated to promote the film, not to examine its making) material. If you can get past the EPK shmooze-fest, though, and ignore the canned soundbites, there are some neat BTS (behind-the-scenes) shots of Tom Cruise performing his own stunts in various exotic locations.
“Boston Days and Spanish Knights” is basically just a shorter (7 minutes) cutdown of the same EPK package, using lots of the same soundbites and clips. It’s kind of frustrating to see the same material in two separate special features, but having worked in that business I know exactly how that happens. (Two cuts of the same BTS documentary I worked on ended up being included on the Return of the King DVD, with much of the same material–basically because the studio couldn’t decide what it wanted–but overall I suppose they were different enough to warrant the inclusion of both.) We do get some good quotes from Mangold that weren’t in the other piece really summing up the tone of the film much better than Fox’s ad campaign did. “This is a movie that’s not about reality,” the director tells us, “but that’s about a fantasy made real.... It’s candy for the eyes.” Exactly! And I loved it for that, while some of my friends who seemed to expect something deeper went home disappointed when we saw it in the theater together. Mangold also explains that it was important for him to actually take audiences around the globe, and I, for one, was appreciative of that mandate. The diverse worldwide locations are one of the best things the movie has going for it!
“Scope” is another 3-minute EPK featurette virtually indistinguishable from “Story.” It mainly focuses on the locations, though, and as I admitted above, I like seeing locations and I like seeing BTS that proves they really shot on those locations, so I’m not going to complain about that... except to say that if you’ve already watched “Wilder Knights and Crazier Days,” then you’ve already seen most of it.
Black Eyed Peas fans only, and I’m not sure how big a cross section of those fan bases really intersects. It’s essentially about Cruise asking the Peas to perform a song on the film’s soundtrack (“Someday”) and then appearing briefly with them on stage at London’s O2 arena, but it really milks this setup! We follow Cruise walking through the halls of the arena with his wife Katie Holmes, hugging person after person after person and patting them on the back. It’s horrible! Then the Peas themselves take forever to tell the story of how Cruise came to their show in Miami and asked them to do a song. Really, this story does not even need to be told at all, let alone drawn out! (And I’d say that even if it were Shirley Bassey talking instead of will.i.am. It’s just boring.) We learn that Tom “loves that creative process” hanging out with the band, and that singer will.i.am thinks the movie is “dope.” All this leads up to footage of Cruise’s big moment joining the band on stage (with a caption helpfully telling us that “the English crowd went crazy”), yet when we get there, we just see it; we don’t actually hear Cruise singing! Instead, they play the album version of the song over the footage. Eight minutes of agonizing setup with zero payoff! Skip it.
Rounding out the special features are the trailer that played like clockwork before every movie last spring, and two promotional minute-long viral videos. “Soccer” shows Cruise and Diaz kicking a soccer ball on set and showing off tricks they know. Is it real? I’m not sure–and therefore I’m not really sure of the point. “Kick” definitely isn’t real, though, presenting a setup wherein Diaz ends up kicking Cruise in the chest during rehearsal and knocks him into a craft service table. I guess it’s funny. These aren’t really my cup of tea, but I guess they have their audience so it’s cool that they’re included.
the combo package (Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy) is of course the film, and it’s a good one. Knight and Day and Cruise both got a bad rap this past summer, and undeservedly. The press seemed very anxious for Cruise to fail, and so they painted this film to be a flop. But it really wasn’t–certainly not internationally. It was recently reported that Knight and Day went on to make $264 million worldwide, more than Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups, which was considered a hit. Knight and Day wasn’t a flop and it isn’t bad. It’s not groundbreaking cinema or anything, but it’s not for one instant trying to be. As Mangold makes clear in the featurettes, this is a popcorn flick, through and through, and it delivers pretty much everything I desire from spy popcorn flick with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek: great locations, cool action setpieces, engaging performances and stampeding bulls crushing a sports car. The high-def transfer on the Blu-ray showcases all those things–particular the stars and the locations–to their best advantage, and the standard-def transfer on the DVD certainly isn’t shabby either. The bonus material is, but don’t let that stop you from picking up this highly entertaining, utterly unpretentious popcorn spy flick.
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