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Blu-ray Review: Knight and Day

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Tom Cruise has starred in both comedies and action flicks, and his latest movie, Knight and Day, is a very successful mix of the two.  Acting opposite Cruise in the film is Cameron Diaz, who, while she may be better known for her comedy work, has starred in a couple of action moves herself (the Charlie’s Angels films).  While Knight and Day doesn’t always work, it does harken back to many a film by Alfred Hitchcock and succeeds well enough to be fun.

The basic plot has something to do with Cruise’s character, Roy Miller, being a secret agent on the run.  As the story goes, Miller has been framed by a fellow agent, Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), for the attempt to sell a fancy little top secret doo-dad.  Miller did steal the device, but only, he claims, to keep it safe.  Miller ends up roping in a patsy to help him get past airport security, and that is how June Havens (Diaz) and Miller meet.

The entire plot, as Hitchcock would have said, is a MacGuffin.  It exists solely to get Cruise’s Miller and Diaz’s June together and keep them together through a series of fantastical events, and as such works brilliantly.  One certainly doesn’t want to think too hard about this device Miller has stolen; the scientist who developed it whom Cruise has secreted away; Fitzgerald, with his ill-defined scheme;  or the government agency Miller and Fitzgerald work for, with their inability to tell right from wrong, good from bad.  Focusing on any of those items, or any of the other myriad of plot holes, questionable choices, or bits of luck that keep our heroes alive and on track will do nothing but spoil this high gloss action-adventure comedy.

The truth is, that it all works.  Director James Mangold (Walk the Line) deftly balances the humor and the action, and keeps things moving at a rapid enough pace that the parts of the movie that don’t work slide by quickly enough that they’re forgotten.

Just as it would be a mistake to stop and think too long and too hard about what is taking place, it would also be wrong to look for depth or any great life lessons from the movie.  What Mangold and company have created here is a straight-up popcorn flick, one with an ending that anyone could guess before the opening credits roll. 

At first blush it can be a little difficult to reconcile the film’s obviousness, the clichés the entire thing is ridden with, and June’s helpless bystander attitude with the quantity of enjoyment one will get from Knight and Day.  June does, eventually, find her footing and start taking an active role in the goings-on, but it does take an awfully long time for her to get to that point.  As for those clichés, the script seems, for the most part, well aware of when they’re entering clichéd territory and knowingly winks at the audience when it does. 

One particularly good moment in the film features an escape from capture that we don’t actually get to see – we only get the drugged-up point of view of June with Miller hanging upside down telling her not to worry and then quick snippets of their making their way to safety.  The script knows that the details of the escape are irrelevant, we’ve all seen ridiculous escapes before, so it just kind of skips ahead to the next bit.  It is that knowing, self-referential quality that really does allow the film to be more than a series of obvious events surrounding an almost wholly irrelevant plot.

The Blu-ray release is really the perfect showcase for this high-gloss flick.  For the entirety of the film, the screen is filled with gorgeous colors (the palette varies from location to location), great detail, and good black levels.  It is easy to make out individual strands of hair, the textures on the guns, and the multitude of shades that go into every explosion of flames.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, as you would expect, is a highly immersive ones, with cars whizzing by during chases, bullets flying in every which way, and lots of bass.  Dialogue is, perhaps, a little quieter than it ought to be in the mix, but not by a lot.

The biggest letdown the release has is with its extras.  Knight and Day comes as a three-disc set.  One disc has a DVD, another a digital copy, and the third features the Blu-ray and the minimal quantity of extras, each of which feels like nothing more than a studio-produced item with as little depth as the film itself.  There are a total of four behind-the scenes pieces, two longer (but each still under 20 minutes) and two shorter, with focuses on the action, the story, and the settings.  That is generic enough, but the same lines from Cruise, Diaz, and Mangold are used in more than one piece which really is a disappointment.  There is also a piece where Cruise and Katie Holmes go to see the Black Eyed Peas and discuss with them the song the group wrote for the film, a couple of “viral” videos, and a trailer.  It certainly would have been nice to see a commentary track or something with a little more depth to it.

Knight and Day has Miller and June fly all over the world with plenty of beautiful location shooting, lots of gunplay, and some excellent chase sequences.  It is a well-tested formula and in the hands of a capable director, a good script (written by Patrick O’Neill) and two excellent actors, there is no reason why it shouldn’t work.  Don’t expect any brilliant insights into the film as a part of this release, but if you’re looking for a good, if undemanding, popcorn flick, this is a great place to find it.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.