Saturday, June 26, 2010

Knight and Day

Ride to Success

What a rush! Knight and Day delivers the quintessential summer blockbuster through a perfectly delivered adrenaline ride with big names, action and comedy put together. Honestly The Killers, in a similarly positioned film with the alpha-male and the ditzy blonde pairing have paled in comparison with the real deal now on our shores, and it had likely boiled down to the star power that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz still command in this part of the world, if sold out attendances here are any indication.

James Mangold's filmography currently covers a wide range of genres, and this experience had benefited him since Knight and Day contains plenty all rolled into one, with action, comedy, science fiction and even serious drama all included. The story really is quite flimsy, if not for the constant twists and turns that actually put you in the driver's seat and engage you in wondering who's who, and what's what, and just whose account you can trust, that of the suave spy, or the girl in shock, or how about the authorities for that matter.

And success was due in part to comedy no less. Tom Cruise had shown that he's adapt at being a comedic actor, with his now iconic Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder being the most memorable. He's not pushover as the action hero, though it's actually been-there-done-that territory as Roy Miller, who possesses this streak of recklessness balanced with expertise and superhuman abilities, who never seems to be putting in the wrong foot. Always seeming to be one step ahead of the game, you'll be constantly positioned to question his motives, his intent and wonder whether Miller is good, bad, or straddling both sides as a double agent.

Cameron Diaz on the other hand with her sunshine smile and demeanour, makes for that perfect eye-candy from whom we follow the proceedings, where her June Havens bumps into Miller at the airport, and following what she thought could be an opportunity for romance, soon finds herself wanted by a clandestine organization, shady underworld dealers, and somehow being doggedly in pursuit by Miller. She has no idea what's going on and it is precisely us following this huge question mark that proves to be half the fun.

Cruise and Diaz share great chemistry together, and it's been quite a long time since they're last pairing together under limited screen time in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, where the highlight of their scene was in a car careening off at high speeds. And it's no different here as well, with their best scenes almost always involving planes, trains and automobiles, including a high speed Ducarti chase with jeeps and bulls even through the busy streets in Spain. Action here is all non-flashy, but has enough pizzazz to thrill and put you at the edge of your seat.

The one action sequence that stood out was the chase down the highway where Miller rescues Havens with the sheer audacity of taking on an army of agents in a convoy of vehicles with shootouts, blowouts, and impossibly executed stunts if not for computer technology. But not everything's quite polished in the film, and the special effects were alarmingly raw for certain scenes, where you can spot the obvious superimposition. The other surprise was a narrative one, which allowed for sticky situations to be explained away, for deft defying escapes to be done without being shown, with cheats applied through fade to blacks. Which is a pity because Tom Cruise obviously did some, if not most of his own stunts to make his character look the convincing bad-ass he is with the fluid leaps and jumps.

Still the film worked, with supporting characters like a very restrained Peter Sarsgaard, and an almost unrecognizable Paul Dano playing quite one-dimensional roles. Ultimately it boiled down to Cruise and Diaz playing to their strengths, and the other major plus point would be the original music by John Powell, which jazzed this film up and added another dimension to this action-comedy. This is a definite winner in this year's rather dismal summer season thus far.

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