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    Review: Knight and Day Coulda Been a Contender

    Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Knight and Day 20th Century Fox

    Review in a Hurry: More of an old-fashioned screwball comedy than an action blockbuster, Knight and Day features Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz at their most charismatic, charming each other—and us—while evading rogue government agents and international crooks. It could have been a lot better with a shorter run time and a stronger ending, though.

    The Bigger Picture: Say what you will about Cruise, but he's a savvier self-marketer than most people give him credit for. Here, he cannily plays off some of the recent public perceptions about his sanity by playing a man of action who just might be nuts. In one scene, he starts ranting about how dairy products weaken your knees, an obvious riff on the actor's real-life pronouncements about psychiatric medication.

    As a CIA agent possibly named Roy Miller, Cruise plays a man who may or may not have given in to his worst impulses...but who remains charismatic and appealing regardless. When Miller uses the unsuspecting June Havens (Diaz), a regular gal who just happens to be both stunningly beautiful and adept at restoring hot rods, to surreptitiously smuggle a top-secret item through airport security, the high-level folks pursuing Miller determine that June may be his accomplice. They then arrange for her to board the same flight as him—one that's sparsely populated with a handful of passengers that are all would-be assassins.

    Miller insists that June stay with him for her own safety, recapturing her every time she either runs away or winds up in the company of the dubious fed Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard, adopting an ill-advised Southern accent). As they wind up succumbing to each other's charms, they nonetheless run the risk that either Miller is the opposite of what he says he is or that they're in a situation that will be impossible to get out of alive.

    And yet, this is a movie about romantic, not narrative, tension. Miller rarely seems to be in real danger because he's a total superman who has even mastered the Vulcan nerve pinch. What works best is when director James Mangold actively subverts the action-movie model: Entire action sequences are "skipped" when June ends up drugged and we're only shown the vaguest glimpses of what she can make out while semi conscious. The tone is less Mission: Impossible and more like what might have happened if Roger Moore's James Bond had found himself in a Howard Hawks comedy.

    Both Moore and Hawks, however, might have objected to this film's climax, in which everything that one would predict to happen, does. The movie plays its final few developments as surprise twists, but they've been so thoroughly telegraphed that spoilers aren't even necessary—you've spoiled the story in your own mind before it gets there. It's a shame that an initially fast-paced romp like this limps across the finish line...as Cruise should know from M:I:III, a weak finale can undercut considerable goodwill.

    The 180—a Second Opinion: Diaz's transition from insecure single woman to ass-kicking sidekick is quite wonderful, and it feels more effortless and truer than it might have in lesser hands (we're looking at you, Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher).

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