There are some actors that no matter what role they play, their movie star status completely engulfs their character and what you see onscreen is not the character, but the star. This is the case with Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney. The same can be said of Tom Cruise and this is especially prevalent in his latest film, Knight and Day, which co-stars Cameron Diaz. For most moviegoers, the main reason for seeing this film will be to see Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and 20th Century Fox is banking on their star power to be appealing enough to attract enough people to generate a tidy profit for the studio. I don’t doubt Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz still have what it takes to attract audiences, but that audience is a hell of a lot smaller than it used to be and for once, audiences are going to want a good story to go along with seeing their movie stars run around and being pretty. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a good story with Knight and Day.

Knight and Day is about a nice Midwestern girl (Cameron Diaz) who is on her way to Boston for her sister’s wedding. As fate would have it, she happens to get on the same plane as a rogue secret agent (Tom Cruise). The agent evidently has something the CIA and a group of international drug lords want (a super battery to be precise) and they go after Cruise to get it. For reasons that escape me, Cruise involves Diaz in his attempts to elude the bad guys as the two embark on a whirlwind escapade around the world.

First and foremost, Knight and Day’s problems begin with its extremely lame premise. However relieved I was to finally NOT see a sequel or a remake, I was just as disappointed in seeing a movie that contained such a tired and implausible cliche of a story as this. Yet again, we get another movie where an object becomes the central objective of all the characters and this object is either something very valuable for monetary reasons and/or it poses a danger to the fate of humankind (see also Prince of Persia, Edge of Darkness, Date Night, and The A-Team). This time the plot revolves around a special battery that can power whole cities or destroy them depending on who gets their hands on it. Not only is this an unimaginative object for anyone to give a shit about, it doesn’t create for a compelling situation. I never give a fuck that this battery may fall in the wrong hands. By the way, I seriously doubt Spanish drug lords would care to possess such technology. The story could have raised its plausibility by having Chinese, Russian, or even Arab agents pursuing the battery.

Furthermore, the movie doesn’t comfortably settle the audience into its world before shit goes down. We’re expected to immediately suspend our disbelief as a super-James Bond type of person takes out everyone on a plane (including both pilots), lands it in a cornfield, and meets up with the pretty girl he met the day before on the plane in a different city and takes her on yet another crazy over-the-top adventure. All of this happens in the span of like 30 minutes. When we finally get a chance to find out what the hell is going on, its simply done by Tom Cruise literally telling Cameron Diaz the backstory before continuing with yet another heart-stopping action sequence. Its as if the filmmakers didn’t want to be bothered by annoying contrivances as a story and so they get it out of the way with brief explanations by the characters. The film completely lost me from the first frame of the movie because it never even tried to convince me of the world it had created.

I alluded to the fact that audiences will come to see Knight and Day not for the story, but to see Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Given the offensively poor quality of its story, the success of this film must completely depend on the appeal of its stars. There is no doubt Cruise and Diaz up their star power as high as it can possibly go to sell this film. As creeped out as I’ve been with Cruise’s bullshit Scientology beliefs over the past couple of years, I’ll give him credit for the effort he puts into his films. I got the sense that he knew that he was working with bad material so he figured he would give his fans everything they would hope and expect. With that, every other scene seems to contain his trademark smile and women get to see him shirtless a couple of times in the movie. We see him in Mission: Impossible mode as he runs, kicks, and punches his way through bad guys. We also see Cruise do comedy, which is what I most looked forward to here. I really enjoyed his comedic stints in Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, and Tropic Thunder, and I was expecting to likewise enjoy seeing his comedic side here. Surprisingly, despite his efforts, Cruise just isn’t very funny here other than a few chuckle-worthy lines scattered throughout the film.

As for Diaz, she is very annoying early on as her character amounts to nothing more than the ditzy, damsel in distress roles that characterize most action movie women roles. However, her character takes a surprising turn halfway through the film that made me completely fall for her and wish that she had been this cool and confident from the beginning. As with Cruise, Diaz plays up all the signature traits that have made her famous. Diaz has played both dumb blond and strong, confident roles and here her character is both. She certainly holds her own against Cruise, which is a tall order considering his star presence. Its amazing to think that when she first began acting in movies in the early 90s, Tom Cruise was already a huge international star and here she is now sharing top billing with him.

Knight and Day also has Peter Sarsgaard (An Education) and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood). Both are great actors and both are utterly wasted in this movie. First of all, Sarsgaard has this weird Southern accent that comes in and out so I didn’t know what the fuck that was all about. Furthermore, we don’t see much of him and when we do all he’s doing is chasing Cruise either by foot or by car. I’m going to venture out and guess that this is not what Sarsgaard envisioned when he took on the role. As for Dano, I don’t know what he was trying to pull off, but whatever it was not only did not work, but it was totally indecipherable. I guess he was sort of trying to be a young eccentric genius, but I wasn’t convinced and I don’t think anyone else will be.

Another big issue I had with Knight and Day was its inconsistency in tone. The beginning airplane crash sequence and the car chase on the Boston freeway set up the film to be over-the-top and comedic. Tom Cruise is practically superhuman. There is nothing that he cannot overcome or escape from. I was fine with this. After all, the trailers were marketing this sort of film. However, the movie then changes tone and it tries to be more serious. Suddenly Cruise seems to be more vulnerable and human as well as more serious. The film begins to really slow down here and as the sudden shift in tone made me take notice, I felt removed from the film. In the end, the movie clearly doesn’t know what it wants to be stylistically.

Knight and Day ends up being a convoluted mess in the end that loses its direction early on. I couldn’t buy into any element of the movie because I didn’t know what the movie was trying to be. It was handicapped from the start with its weak premise and its problems were exacerbated by its implausible setups and inconsistent changes in tone. I commend Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz for giving their best efforts to save this film, but when all you’re given is shit to work with, there’s only so much you can do to keep the audience from taking a whiff of its stench.

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