Okay all you haters, sharpen your pencils and unpack your hand grenades because Lars B. is fixin’ to dive back in and defend Tom Cruise – yet again. So take a deep breath, open your minds, and shift into cruise control.
I like to play a little game with actors when trying to gauge why I like/appreciate them so much; or maybe, more specifically, why an actor is so good at a certain genre. It goes like this. By now, you all know how much I admire/revere Daniel Day-Lewis. With no hesitation, I can state that Tom Cruise cannot fit into that cobbler’s shoes (i.e. he would not have been a very effective ‘Bill the Butcher.’) But, to be fair to Cruise, I must also admit this: Day-Lewis could not have rocked Magnolia’s ‘Frank T.J. Mackey.’ And while Cruise couldn’t have pulled off Gladiator (see the mediocre The Last Samurai), I can’t see Russell Crowe making the Steven Spielberg sci-fi thriller Minority Report work as well as it did (see Virtuosity). And neither Day-Lewis nor Crowe could pull off ‘Les Grossman’ from Tropic Thunder or do what Cruise does ever so nimbly in the wall-to-wall fun popcorn NEW ON DVD Knight and Day.
“I’m pretty good at what I do,” Cruise’s ‘Roy Miller’ says at one point to a flabbergasted ‘June Havens’ (Cameron Diaz) as their worlds collide.
The opening shell game between ‘Miller’ and the feds tailing him leads to a plane ride with few passengers and a lot of turbulence. Diaz thinks she’s met mister wonderful, until she exits the bathroom to find a cabin full of stiffs and two dead pilots. Good news for her, though, because mister wonderful can not only fly the plane to a secure landing in a remote cornfield, but can deliver her nice and tidy to her shabby chic pillows, tuck her in like one of Charlie’s Angels, make her a nutritious breakfast, and leave a trail of convenient post-it notes to warn her of impending dangers. What a guy!
Sure, this is one of those films that requires huge leaps of faith – especially a car chase scene with Diaz driving…from the back seat – but with Cruise behind the wheel it all works, from beginning to end. Even with a somewhat tepid storyline about a much sought after never-ending power source (looks kind of like a C battery), some convoluted arms dealing negotiations with cheeky Euro types, and a soft villain (Peter Sarsgaard), the mongo charm and chemistry between the two stars gains serious momentum under James Mangold’s keen direction, making it a very enjoyable film. Mangold also made 3:10 to Yuma (2007) Walk the Line (2005), and Girl, Interrupted (1999), all three excellent. He’s become a reliable director to follow (Lars Beckerman Handbook of Film Truths, Rule#3: Follow directors more than actors).
With few exceptions, you get what you pay for in a Tom Cruise film – the money’s up on the screen. Amazing stunts, gorgeous locations, and action with urgency.
“Bet you’ve never made a girl an omelette, have you?” Diaz asks her swarthy tormentor after being given a truth serum and realizing she is falling for the old charmer, Cruise. “It’s the little things.”
And it’s the little things with Cruise and Diaz and their undeniable onscreen chemistry that make Knight and Day work from beginning to end. Oh, and one BIG thing. Tom Cruise is still the biggest star in the world. And for damn good reason.