KNIGHT AND DAY is what a summer popcorn movie should be. Its big, its preposterous, and its a whole lot of fun. Boy meets girl. Boy behaves in socially inappropriate but oddly compelling ways involving guns and random acts of derring-do. Girl goes along for the ride, more or less willingly depending on where the plot has deposited her.
They boy is Roy Miller, a handsome and ingratiating guy who keeps bumping into her at the Wichita airport. The girl is June Havens, the pretty restorer of vintage cars traveling back to Boston and her sisters wedding. The final bump is on the plane, where June decides to be impulsive and throw herself at Roy. While she is in the bathroom checking her breath and rearranging her breasts into their most attractive configuration, Roy is methodically killing everyone else on the plane. There arent that many of them, but they include both the pilot and co-pilot. Once June figures out that Roy isnt kidding when her tells her what happened over the cocktails he has thoughtfully prepared for her, its too late and shes suddenly in the midst of Roys escape, heavy on firepower and fast-moving vehicles, from the federal agents (taciturn Peter Sarsgaard and simmering Viola Davis) who are after him with grim determination. And from the dashing if dangerous Spanish arms dealer (Jordi Molla) who is just as determined, but less grim.
June until now has led a very quiet life, a complete nobody according to the Feds who are perplexed about why she is paired up with Roy. They are only slightly less perplexed than June is about that. Though, when push comes to shove, and it does with alarming regularity, June shows a native skill for driving cars very fast from the back seat, for keeping her head, mostly, as the bullets fly, and taking it almost in stride when Roy shows up to kidnap her from the diner where she is having pie with her ex-boyfriend (Marc Blucas).
Shes got a peculiar resilience unexpected in someone of her ilk. Hes got a peculiar nurturing instinct unexpected in someone who has cracked up and gone rogue, which is the story being bruited about by his former employers. While taking June hostage in the diner, he apologizes for the inconvenience to the patrons and insists that they all have pie but not, he adds, with ice cream because of its possible negative impact on their metabolism. He also shoots Junes ex in the fleshy part of his leg so as to cause the least damage. And he speaks in calm but firm tones to June, repeating her name often, all designed to keep her as calm and focused as possible under the circumstances, though the way he compliments her on how she handled her first car chase has the ring of genuine sincerity and not a little surprise.
The writing is brisk, as is the direction, which keeps things moving at the appropriately breakneck pace that can keep the audience engaged when credulity is stretched too far. Having June drugged through the stretchiest parts is a clever device, keeping June, and the audience, guessing about just how Roy got her back into her apartment with enough time to write a series of prescient post-it notes and cook her an omelet, for example, after leaving the plane. Or just exactly how he went from swinging by his heels with arms bound in the villains lair, to getting them both to safety. Cruise evinces an attitude of casual calm and intense focus that gives Roy the air of either having had a complete break with reality, or a man who is completely in control of the situation. It gives comforting believability of his off-hand Hi June as he reconnects with her as they are hurtling along a freeway with gunfire aimed their way, or the catch-phrase of the film Ive got this, delivered with an absolute tone of conviction in even the most unconvincing of circumstances. It explains Junes fascination with him as well as her trepidation. Diaz does everywoman with an equal conviction, being properly terrified when the situation calls for it without ever quite completely losing her head. When June makes friends with an automatic weapon, and under truth serum confesses her true feelings about her recent adventures, there is a whiff of perfectly reasonably inevitability.
KNIGHT AND DAY keeps the duo sparring through most action, thereby keeping the necessary sparks of several varieties flying. The plot, involving a geek genius (played with nerdy splendor by Paul Dano) and his invention that solves the worlds energy problems, is nifty as well as timely without getting in the way of the raison detre of the flick, which is to provide a slick piece of colorful escapism, played to the hilt.