By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
Knight and Day
Knight and Day is exactly the kind of summer movie I used to look forward to seeing. It brings fun action back to the genre after a decade overpowered by serious faux “realistic” thrillers.
Review: Knight and Day
The action captures the point of view of an innocent bystander caught up in the danger. You see all the standard action tropes – car flips, motorcycle jumps, gunshots – coming from a perspective that’s not the action hero’s, so that makes it exciting again. It uses an old film school term, mise en scene. Setting up shots where what you see happening determines where you are in the scene is a basic of filmmaking.
The opening setup is all visual. They’re not explaining, “This is the hero and this is how he does stuff and this is what he’s up to now.” They just show him at work and you get it. Yay for basic storytelling. Later on they start explaining stuff but you can enjoy this while it lasts. It’s mysterious and sets up exactly what’s going to happen. Her shtick about restoring old cars is more of your basic Hollywood character exposition, but as always, good enough for an action movie.
The action is so fast, sometimes you have to wonder, “Did I just see that crazy sh*t?” You did. It’s great unrealistic spectacle. An airplane fight uses all the props available. They even get a shot from outside the plane through the windows. That’s how you use visual effects. Do a shot that’s impossible but makes subtle visual sense and shows off your action.
It’s pure nonchalant violence with no morals. It’s total fantasy, like a lot of action movies seem afraid to be now. There are great movies about consequences of violence, but there’s nothing wrong with reveling in the fantasy world a movie can create. Even though it’s PG-13, you get the impact that lots of people are dying, and it doesn’t matter because they’re generic. There’s no consequence here, only awesome.
In most of the sequences, the CGI and green screen are cut with actual stunts (some that Cruise does, some that the stuntmen do) in the way that old fashioned movies are done. The CGI is typically bad as most Hollywood movies are, but the context is better than usual. At least it’s used to convey something filmically. They know how to use the tool. It’s the tool itself that’s faulty.
Tom Cruise is having much more fun than he has as Ethan Hunt. Here he’s just playing with action, not trying to be a serious spy. He should be like this all the time. It’s always supposed to be fun. Well, I shouldn’t exaggerate. He should do this whenever he’s not doing Mission: Impossible. He certainly gets to run a lot and it says a lot for Cameron Diaz that she can keep up with Hollywood’s greatest runner. It’s an unmarried True Lies, though it can’t keep the pace up towards the middle and end. I guess that marriage subplot was more important than the True Lies haters realized.
The fight on the train isn’t quite as wild as the others before, but it has some funny moments. Then after that there are some banal chases and shootouts. You can’t really get away with mediocre action after you’ve shown us the good stuff. And they start talking a lot about characters so they can explain all the stuff you’ve just been watching, so that’s lame. But there’s a decent finish so it ends a little bit uplifted.