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The UnPopular Opinion: Knight & Day

03.10.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

With his latest film a critical darling, James Mangold has cemented his stock as a top tier director in Hollywood. Mangold, whose credits include the Oscar nominated films WALK THE LINE, GIRL INTERRUPTED and 3:10 TO YUMA has never quite been the household name that his pedigree as a filmmaker has deserved. While I found WALK THE LINE to be incredibly overrated, Mangold's work on 3:10 TO YUMA speaks for itself. THE WOLVERINE was a massive improvement over ORIGINS and LOGAN is by far one of the best comic book films ever made and deserves awards consideration as one of the best films of 2017. But, Mangold has made several other movies including IDENTITY, KATE AND LEOPOLD and COPLAND. But, his most criminally underappreciated movie is his 2010 action comedy KNIGHT & DAY. Critically lambasted and a box office bomb, KNIGHT & DAY is a fun romantic comedy for fans of action flicks and stars one of the biggest movie stars of all time.

In the same vein as other romantic action movies like ROMANCING THE STONE, TRUE LIES and BIRD ON A WIRE, KNIGHT & DAY pairs two pretty movie stars and puts them into a formulaic plot: secret agent meets civilian woman whom he needs to help him save the world from traitorous spies. There have been countless movies that fit this format going all the way back to some of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The reason the formula works is because it is simple and does not force the viewer into overthinking things. Instead, we can enjoy this movie for what it was meant to be: brainless summer popcorn fare. Far too often, movies are forced into becoming films in order to appease a higher artistic sensibility. Sometimes, we just want to be entertained. KNIGHT & DAY is certainly entertaining and primarily because it puts Tom Cruise into a position he is vastly under-utilized in: comedy. What saves KNIGHT & DAY from being a failure is the sense of humor that pervades this PG-13 studio adventure.

The UnPopular Opinion, Knight & Day, Action, Comedy, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, James Mangold, Logan

We all already know that Cameron Diaz can balance funny and fisticuffs thanks to her roles in McG's CHARLIE'S ANGELS films. Here, she takes a much more ditzy and generic role as the damsel in distress. But, like any modern studio film does, she becomes her own hero by the end of the film and gets the dream guy. Despite both appearing together previously in VANILLA SKY, Diaz and Cruise show a totally different chemistry here that is not explored to it's full potential. Instead, we get multiple action sequences interspersed with narrative exposition to move the plot along. That may sound like a jab against the film, but it works in the context of what James Mangold and credited screenwriter Patrick O'Neill aimed for which is a high concept action film with comedic elements. The movie also benefits from a great supporting cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard as the villain and Viola Davis as the head of the CIA. If you can name me a pair of better actors to support Crusie and Diaz, I defy you to tell me in the comments below. Both actors chew the scenery with aplomb and compliment the rip-roaring pace of the movie.

At it's core, KNIGHT & DAY is MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE with more smiling. Over the last decade, every film that Tom Cruise stars in feels like a variation of his Ethan Hunt character. They are all everyman characters who perform insane stunts and always save the day but usually with a brooding demeanor and bloody knuckles. Here, Cruise is practically smiling from opening to closing credits and delivers a character that made me long for him to appear in more funny movies. After his brilliant role in TROPIC THUNDER, I was convinced Cruise would pursue more humorous roles. KNIGHT & DAY remains the actor's lone comedy role (unless you count ROCK OF AGES, which I do not). Cruise feels like vintage Mel Gibson in this movie which is a huge compliment. What Mel always made work in LETHAL WEAPON and BIRD ON A WIRE was the light-heartedness in a movie with a very serious plot. In fact, the dynamic between Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn in BIRD ON A WIRE is a very close parallel for the chemistry between the leads in this movie.

Filmed after 3:10 TO YUMA, James Mangold reteamed with cinematographer Phedon Papamichael who makes this movie looks much more lush than you would expect. Travelling around the world much like a typical MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE entry, KNIGHT & DAY gives us action in countries ranging from Germany and Spain to Chile and the United States. The pedigree of the film's cast and crew also outweigh the originally envisioned stars for the movie (Adam Sandler, Gerard Butler and Chris Tucker were once looked at for Cruise's role with Eva Mendes eyed for Diaz's part). Cruise ultimately took the role after considering starring in both SALT and THE TOURIST. With everyone together, Mangold manages to balance his experience with romantic comedies (KATE AND LEOPOLD) with an eye for action that would directly lead into his work on THE WOLVERINE and LOGAN. The music even connects to the thematically similar BOURNE films thanks to shared composer John Powell.

Sandwiched right in the middle of Tom Cruise's rebranding era after his marriage and divorce from Katie Holmes, KNIGHT & DAY was designed to reboot Cruise back into the likeable leading man he had been for decades prior. While I appreciate the actor's work in the JACK REACHER films as well as OBLIVION and EDGE OF TOMORROW, his roles all blend together over time. KNIGHT & DAY sticks out in my memory because it is such a different tone than those other movies. Plus, seeing Cruise play off of Cameron Diaz, an actress at least relatively close to Cruise in age, makes their pairing feel more realistic and therefore makes the rest of the film seem more natural. The natural feel of this movie betrays the large amount of special effects used to execute many of the special effects, but the emotional scale of the film still comes off as much more intimate than the material deserves. Maybe my judgement is clouded from my love of these two actors in VANILLA SKY, but I am a fan of actors who click on screen.

The UnPopular Opinion, Knight & Day, Action, Comedy, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, James Mangold, Logan

KNIGHT & DAY is a movie that most viewers probably have forgotten about in the seven years since it hit theaters. That is a blessing in disguise as it can now be discovered by audiences who will wonder how they missed seeing this movie when it initially came out. James Mangold may never direct a film this light again but I hope he is given the opportunity to make a romantic comedy or action film as a filmmaker of his talent can reinvigorate those stale genres much in the way he gave comic book films a kick in the ass with LOGAN. In fact, I am going to petition right now that Mangold be given the reins of the next BOURNE or MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film. If any franchises out there are feeling like they need a secret ingredient added to their formula, Mangold is that ingredient and KNIGHT & DAY is a perfect example why.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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