Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knight and Day

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Cruise-Control"
"Every Man His 007 (And Every Woman, Too)"

June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is going through a life-transition and doesn't even know it.  She's getting on a plane to Boston to be a brides-maid (never a bride) at her little sister's wedding, and letting go of the past by putting the finishing touches on her father's dream-project, restoring a pre-70's GTO, and giving it to her sister as a wedding present.

But, she's keeps running into this "guy," literally—the last time at the airport before she boards her plane, and finds that...sorry, the flight is full-up.  The "guy," Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) enigmatically says, "Some times things happen for a reason" and boards the plane.

Truer words.  Before you can say "Non-res" she's on the plane and chatting up Miller, who's personable, quiet, and (when she's not looking) scoping out the plane.  It's the first instance of her not registering what's happening to her, but it won't be the last.  Don't be too hard on herShe's a "newbie" at counter-espionage.

It starts tracking like a Hitchcock film—the "innocent" caught up in the intrigue—but it ends up morphing into Hitchcock's bastard love-child, the James Bond series.  Cruise has always wanted to play Bond (incorrigibly American and too short, despite Daniel Craig's height issues—and some of the sets are low-ceilinged to disguise Cruise's short stature), hence the "Mission: Impossible" series that turned a team-effort into a one-man show.  But, this is as close as he'll come, and he and the film do well by it, with the typical derring-do, a lot of homages to Bonds of the past, and doing one thing that the Bond's have never done:  this is a "Bond" film for women.

With all the variations on the theme the Bond producers have explored over the years, there's one thing they haven't done: looked at the adventure from the woman's perspective.  As Kim Basinger said about "Never Say Never Again," her part didn't amount to much because "it's all about Bond, anyway."  Deft analysis.  It is always from Bond's perspective, and the women dragged into the scenarios, with or against their wills, are just chaff blown about in the fire-storm (or the "Thunderball"), accoutrements like his cuff-links and his wristwatch, though usually less functional.  Bond walks into their world, blows it up, and the best they can do is end up in the boat with him, ahead of the shock-wave.  Even the most important and dynamic of the Bond-girls, Natalya Simonova from "Goldeneye"—she's the one who saves the world at the end—is along for the ride in all of the instantly disposable vehicles.  Appropriate, as they're instantly disposable, too, the inevitable break-up happening between films never to be seen again in the series.  Even the original books' author, Ian Fleming, tinkered with the idea, making "The Spy Who Loved Me," entirely from "the girl's" perspective.

And that's what this is, too.  We're focussed more on June and her "learning the ropes," frequently knocked out and dragged from one exotic location to another, by good guys and bad guys alike, a pawn in this battle of knights, Alice in "Thunderland." 

The great thing about "Knight and Day" is that it doesn't have the "Bond cache" where he's always in charge, and stretches the formula to resolve a lot of the women's issues about control and taking charge in a satisfying, and complete, manner.

Of course, the "big" issue with a Tom Cruise movie is Cruise?  He's always been the eager-beaver, and sometimes (as we'll show in this Sunday's "Don't Make a Scene"), most times, in an effort to fill the void of the camera-frame, he'll take things so far as to be ludicrously over-the-top, practically mugging in an effort to create a character that registers.  He's learning.  He's antic and funny in this, especially in the action scenes ("Alright, nobody move, or I shoot myself, and then the girl!"), sure, and sometimes frustratingly practical when the bullets are flying ("promiscuously" as they say in "The Wind and The Lion") at him on the roof of car.  But, in the quieter moments, he's relaxed and subtle, and emitting a mega-wattage star-power—somewhat less than Cary Grant, but certainly in the Christopher Reeve/Pierce Brosnan range, where he knows less is more.  The camera loves him, and he accepts that love, without having to push it.  He's GOOD in this, and Diaz, as ditzy as she can be, manages to make her "every-girl" sympathetic and identifiable.

This is the Bond movie that the wife/girl-friend won't sit in frustration during, as it's been nicely laser-etched with a "chick flick" by James Mangold, (and a bevy of screen-writers, starting with Patrick O'Neill and also passing though the PC of the great Scott Frank) with a cast rounded out by good actors like Paul Dano, Peter Saarsgaard, and Oscar nominee Viola Davis (Good to see HER again!).  "Knight and Day," you are the one.

"Knight and Day" is a Matinee.


Simon said...

Why can't we get a chick flick that doesn't have to involve roMAHnce?

Yojimbo_5 said...

Now, THAT is a damned good, and frustrating, question.

And, unfortunately, we probably both know the answer.

Mike Lippert said...

This review makes me smile. That's all I'll say for now.

The Floating Red Couch said...

Is that true about Tom cruise and ceiling heights?

Yojimbo_5 said...

Float: There's a shot where Cruise (who's all of 5' 5") walks through a train corridor and the celing height can't be more than 6'5" so, yeah, I think there was some creative set-design done.

Mike: Mark me down as "intrigued" by your statement, as I'm sure all will be revealed by you, at some point. Glad I made you smile.

Mike Lippert said...

Now that my review is published I can say that I smiled because after all the praise the A-Team got and all the bad hype this movie is getting, I'm glad to see someone off who gave the right film more praise.