Sunday, 29 January 2012

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day, (formerly titled Wichita and Trouble Man) is a 2010 romantic action comedy film starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The film is directed by James Mangold. The film went through a period of "development hell"; which included a prior film director and multiple writers that worked on the script. Producers for Knight and Day went through multiple other actors for the lead roles before eventually settling on Cruise and Diaz. Will Smith, Chris Tucker, and Gerard Butler were considered by the film's producers for the male lead that later went to Cruise, and Eva Mendes was initially set for the role that Diaz later portrayed in the movie. The film's investors offset funding costs by paying Cruise a lower advance fee and neglecting to provide him with a share of the revenue until the financiers earn back their initial investment in the production. Filming took place in several locations, mainly in several cities located in Massachusetts, while other scenes were filmed in Spain and parts of Austria.

Knight and Day was released in the United States on June 23, 2010. The film received mixed reviews from film critics; it garnered a 53 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes based upon aggregated reviews, and a rating of "mixed or average reviews" at Metacritic. Knight and Day performed poorly at the box office in its debut, proceeded to fall nine percent in ticket sales in its second day after being released, and took third place behind films Toy Story 3 and the comedy Grown Ups in its first Friday after release. At $20.5 million, the total U.S. weekend box office take for Knight and Day was the worst result for an action film starring Tom Cruise in 20 years. The film was a critical & commercial failure. With a production budget of $107 million (after tax credits) Knight and Day went on to gross $261,924,837 worldwide, of which only an estimated $76.4 million was generated in the United States.

The Plot

Knight and Day follows the adventures of Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), a spy on the run, and June Havens (Cameron Diaz), a car restorer. Miller is seen watching Havens, and he bumps into her a couple of times as they go through security at Wichita Airport. Havens is making her way back home to Boston from Wichita, Kansas after picking up spare parts for her deceased father's classic Pontiac GTO car, that she is restoring for her sister as a wedding gift. Even though she has a confirmed reservation for her flight, she is told at the gate that it is overbooked. Miller, able to board, whispers to her that "sometimes things happen for a reason". Unbeknownst to Havens, Federal agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) is monitoring Miller's movements and, believing she is working with Miller, puts her back on the flight list.

On board the flight, Havens notices that there are only four or five other people present. She relaxes with a drink, and chats about her dream of someday driving to Cape Horn while Miller checks out the other passengers. She is charmed, and goes to the restroom to freshen up. While she is occupied, Miller is attacked by the remaining passengers and crew. Miller kills them all, including the pilots. After she emerges from the restroom Miller calmly informs her that everyone onboard is dead. Thinking that he is joking, Havens plays along until Miller enters the cockpit. In a spell of turbulence, she notices the dead bodies falling over in their seats, and spilling into the aisle. Miller lands the plane on a highway, but skids off the road into a corn field trying to avoid a semi-trailer Truck. Miller gives Havens a drink, and explains that she may be questioned by various officials. She is not to get in any vehicle with them, nor accompany them if they suggest taking her away to a "safe" place. Havens passes out due to a knock-out drug in the drink, but awakes at home amongst clues that Miller brought her there, ensuring her safety.

Havens struggles through the day trying on bridesmaid dresses for her sister, April's (Maggie Grace) wedding. Talking over what to do with their dad's GTO car Havens is shocked to learn that April wants to sell it. She is lured out of the shop and is accosted by a group seeming to be FBI special agents who, with assurances that she will be safe, drive her away. She is shown some files pertaining to Miller, and is questioned by the agents to determine if she is working with him. Suddenly, Miller shows up, and with much shooting and acrobatics, "rescues" Havens.

Havens doesn't know who or what to believe and flees to the firehall, where her former boyfriend, Rodney (Marc Blucas), works as a firefighter. Upon hearing her story he thinks she is merely stressed from the wedding, and takes her out for pie. While they are chatting, Miller arrives and kidnaps Havens. He handcuffs her and shoots Rodney in the leg, telling him this will all turn him into an overnight hero and virtually guarantee his desired promotion to lieutenant.

Miller explains that Havens is safer with him; and Havens agrees to follow him as they go to pick up Simon Feck (Paul Dano), a genius inventor who created a perpetual energy battery called the Zephyr. They arrive at a safe house in Brooklyn where he left Feck. He is missing, but has left clues that he can be found on a train in Austria. The two are immediately ambushed by men belonging to Antonio (Jordi MollĂ ), a Spanish arms dealer. After Miller again drugs Havens, she drifts in and out of consciousness between their capture and escape from Antonio's men. Miller brings her to an island that is off the grid, which he calls his home. After leaving Miller in frustration to wander the island, Havens notices a message on Miller's cell phone with a Boston address. While studying this, her cell phone rings, showing her sister's caller ID. In answering the phone, she accidentally leads Antonio's group to the hideaway. They try to kill Miller and Havens with a remote drone.

Again knocking out Havens, this time with a neck pinch, Miller transports them to a train heading through the Alps. Havens awakes alone and, missing a message from Miller, leaves to get breakfast in the dining car where she encounters Bernhard (Falk Hentschel), a German assassin whom she believes is Feck. When she finds the message stuck to the bottom of her shoe, she realizes that Feck is with Miller, and Bernhard is someone else. Using tricks learned from Miller, Havens manages to survive, and Bernhard is eventually knocked out of a window by Miller and killed by a train coming from the opposite direction.

Miller puts Havens and Feck up in a hotel in Salzburg, Austria, and heads to a meeting with a mysterious beautiful woman. Havens follows him, and hears him make a deal to sell the Zephyr to Antonio. Havens is picked up by the CIA and meets the director of counter-intel, who confirms that Miller is a rogue agent, and gives her a pen transmitter to signal them when she is with Miller and the Zephyr. Miller meets her back at the hotel, and shows her the Zephyr, which is now showing signs of overheating. Havens uses the pen to notify the agents, which Miller notes "hurts more than I thought it would," but Miller escapes to the roof-tops. After leading the CIA agents on a chase, Miller is apparently shot and falls into the Salzach River. His body is not recovered, nor is the Zephyr.

Havens is sent home by the agents in time to stand at her sister's wedding. When Havens hears the song that Miller used as his ring-tone, she heads to the address she remembered from his iPhone. She meets the people at the address, and realizes that they are Miller's parents. Havens learns that Miller's real name is Matthew Knight and the couple believe their son, a former Army Ranger Captain and Eagle Scout, is dead, and they are fabulously wealthy from winning lotteries and sweepstakes they don't remember entering. They mention that their son was an excellent swimmer who could hold his breath for an amazing length of time, which leads Havens to realize Miller is still alive.

Havens leaves the Knights, and calls her own voice mail, leaving a message that she has the Zephyr. She is quickly captured by Antonio's men and taken to Spain. She is drugged with truth serum, which makes her relaxed and happy and leads her to reveal that Miller feigned his selling of the Zephyr and his death to allow her to return home. Antonio realizes that she doesn't have the Zephyr, and the only way he can get the device is to pay Fitzgerald who has kidnapped Feck. Miller has been following Feck using a tracking app on his iPhone, and stumbles upon Havens in the Spaniard's compound. Havens is rescued as she is being taken out for execution. They pursue Fitzgerald and Feck on a motorcycle, while eluding Antonio's men during the Running of the Bulls, during which Antonio is trampled to death by some bulls.

Fitzgerald is able to escape in an amphibious plane with the now extremely hot Zephyr while Miller is hit in the chest by a bullet as he saves Feck. Feck comments that the battery is unstable. As they watch the plane climb, the battery explodes, killing Fitzgerald.

Miller collapses from the gunshot wound, but wakes in a hospital. He receives an apology from the director (Viola Davis), who tells him that he rooted out a corrupt team. He asks about Havens, and is told that she has returned home. He is warned that he can't be distracted, and must forget her to continue with his job. The Director also explains to Miller that the agency will "transfer you to a secure facility tomorrow, for your safety" using the same wording that he warned Havens about. As they leave, a nurse enters, and gives Miller his medication. Miller realizes that he's been drugged, but then sees that the nurse is Havens.

Miller comes to in the rebuilt classic car that belonged to Havens' father. After he asks what day it is, Havens kisses him and says it's someday. She drives off, traveling along a coastal road past a signpost for Cape Horn. The final scene shows Roy's mother telling her husband that they have just received two tickets to Cape Horn. Though she blames her husband for ordering them by mistake, she insists that they go.


Knight and Day received mixed reviews; Rotten Tomatoes reported a rating of 53 percent "rotten" metric based upon 199 aggregated reviews. Rotten Tomatoes summarized the reviews received with, "Consensus: It's pure formula, but thanks to its breezy pace and a pair of charming performances from Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day offers some agreeably middle-of-the-road summer action." Another review aggretator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized score from 0–100 from reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a "mixed or average" score of 47 based on 36 reviews.

The film received a negative review in Variety; critic Justin Chang characterized the film as "a high-energy, low-impact caper-comedy that labors to bring a measure of wit, romance and glamour to an overworked spy-thriller template". Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter summarized his review of the film with, "Bottom Line: Logic and plausibility take a holiday in this nonstop actioner that counts on stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz to sell the nonsense." Honeycutt wrote of the writing, "the script is too lazy to develop any of its characters – and that includes the leads", and commented, "laziness permeates the film from the inexplicable escapes to the neglected romance". Knight and Day received a rating of one and a half stars from a review by Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune; which criticized multiple aspects of the film, including its script, directing, cinematography, set pieces, and action sequences. Phillips concluded, "A 21st Century Charade pumped up on all the wrong steroids, Knight and Day may well suffice for audiences desperate for the bankable paradox known as the predictable surprise, and willing to overlook a galumphing mediocrity in order to concentrate on matters of dentistry."

American film critic and professor Emanuel Levy was critical of the film's writing, calling it a "mindless flick"; he noted, "The story moves at a breakneck speed, as if to conceal the incongruities in the storytelling." Levy gave the film a grade of "C", and commented, "Preposterously plotted, the saga is dominated by long, energetic, uneven action sequences, but it lacks any logic and pays minimal attention to characterization. Repetitious in structure, and with humor that more often than not misses the mark, Knight and Day is characterized by nihilistic violence and amoral tone, which wouldn't have mattered had the movie been witty or fun to watch." The film received a rating of two stars out of four from critic Peter Howell in the Toronto Star; the reviewer commented, "There is supposed to be romance in Knight and Day – and Diaz is up for it – but Cruise still looks as if he's taken charisma lessons from Al Gore." In a review for the Orlando Sentinel, critic Roger Moore commented, "The blase plot devices (a gadget, the nerdy guy who invented it), the bland villains, the too-fast dash through exotic locales, don't matter so long as Cruise and Diaz click and spark their scenes – chases and embraces – to life. And Cruise, hurling himself at this as if his Mission: Impossible future and indeed his whole career depended on it, makes sure they do."

The Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern commented, "Knight and Day woke me up to just how awful some summer entertainments have become. It isn't that the film is harmful, except to moviegoers' wallets and movie lovers' morale, but that it is truly phenomenal for the purity of its incoherence." Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert rated the movie 3 stars out of 4 and wrote, "Knight and Day aspires to the light charm of a romantic action comedy like Charade or Romancing the Stone, but would come closer if it dialed down the relentless action. The romance part goes without saying after a Meet Cute contrived in an airport, and the comedy seems to generate naturally between Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. But why do so many summer movies find it obligatory to inflict us with CGI overkill? I'd sorta rather see Diaz and Cruise in action scenes on a human scale, rather than have it rubbed in that for long stretches, they're essentially replaced by animation." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe stated, "The movie's a piece of high-octane summer piffle: stylish, funny, brainless without being too obnoxious about it, and Cruise is its manic animating principle." Writing for the Associated Press, Christy Lemire commented, "Cruise's presence also helps keep things light, breezy and watchable when the action – and the story itself – spin ridiculously out of control."

Joshua Starnes of gave the film a rating of 6.5 out of 10, and concluded his review, "Instead of watching it, you're better off putting Knight and Day in a time capsule and singing some Don McLean, 'cause this is the day the movie star died." In a subsequent "mini review", Edward Douglas of gave the film a rating of 8 out of 10, and concluded, "The entertainment comes from how much fun it is watching [Cruise and Diaz] on screen together and that's what separates Knight and Day from previous attempts at mixing romance, comedy, and action." In a review for CNN, Tom Charity commented, "there's a creeping anxiety about this project, a tendency to over-compensate that speaks to underlying inadequacies." Film critic Kenneth Turan commented on the performance of Cruise, "If you doubt Cruise's skills in the star department, "'Knight and Day' should make you a believer. It's hardly a perfect film, not even close, but it is the most entertaining made-for-adults studio movie of the summer, and one of the reasons it works at all is the great skill and commitment Cruise brings to the starring role." Turan commented on Mangold's efforts as the film's director, "'Knight and Day' is also fortunate to have James Mangold in charge. As he demonstrated in 'Walk the Line' and '3:10 to Yuma,' Mangold is one of the few current directors who has an instinct for reasonably intelligent popular entertainment. His films don't end up on 10-best lists, but you walk out of them feeling you've gotten what you paid for, and that is an increasingly rare commodity."

The Cast

Tom Cruise - Roy Miller
Cameron Diaz - June Havens
Peter Sarsgaard - John Fitzgerald
Jordi Molla - Antonio Quintana
Viola Davis - Isabel George
Paul Dano - Simon Feck
Falk Hentschel - Bernhard
Marc Blucas - Rodney
Maggie Grace - April Havens
Rich Manley - Danny
Dale Dye - Frank Knight
Celia Weston - Molly Knight
Gal Gadot - Naomi
Nicholas Art - Airport Kid
Christian Finnegan - Ticket Agent
Sara Underwood - Newscaster

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