June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Roy Miller, the mischievous secret agent played by Tom Cruise in “Knight and Day,” is a man of many survival skills and many modes of transportation.
He crash lands a commercial jet in a Midwest cornfield after wiping out a slew of onboard assassins. He blasts away at bad guys while clinging to the hood of a speeding car in Boston. He dodges bombs on a Caribbean island before escaping in a helicopter and avoids charging bulls while racing a motorcycle in Spain.
His globetrotting adventures with June (Cameron Diaz), an unsuspecting woman he meets at the airport, provide a relatively pleasing mix of action and comedy. “Knight and Day” isn’t a great film or even a very good one, but it stands out against dreadful summer competition like “The A-Team” and “Jonah Hex.”
James Mangold’s thriller, written by Patrick O’Neill, borrows elements from “North by Northwest,” James Bond and even Cruise’s own “Mission Impossible” series. Despite a disorienting whirlwind of chase scenes and shootouts, I enjoyed the comic interplay between Cruise and Diaz, who reunite for the first time since the disastrous “Vanilla Sky” in 2001.
Roy is being chased by government agents, foreign spies and arms dealers who want his prized possession -- a super-battery that can power an entire city, invented by a geek (Paul Dano) who’s also a target of the pursuers. No matter how hairy the situation, Roy stays calm and cool. After both pilots on their plane are killed, he matter-of-factly tells June that “it’s just one of those things.”
June is flying from Wichita, Kansas, to Boston for her sister’s wedding when Miller shakes up her placid life as a vintage-car restorer. After he plunges their plane into the cornfield, she’s drawn into his dangerous, clandestine world, where everyone is a potential enemy and gunfights are as common as handshakes.
Roy’s boss (Peter Sarsgaard) tries to convince June that her new friend is a rogue spy. But she sticks with him, even though she keeps getting drugged by Roy and waking up in a new place with no memory of how she got there.
Mangold (“Walk the Line,” “3:10 to Yuma”) offers viewers a buffet of gut-churning thrills, including a roller-coaster car ride through a tunnel and a rooftop chase in Austria that ends with Roy plunging into a river. The main attraction, though, is Cruise’s tongue-in-cheek performance. If he can laugh at himself, why can’t we laugh with him?
“Knight and Day,” from 20th Century Fox, opens today across the U.S. Rating: **1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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