Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

TOP FUN; at 48, Tom Cruise Just about Still Has What It Takes to Play an Action Hero -- and Certainly Knows How to Deliver a Popcorn Movie; FILM OF THE WEEK

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

TOP FUN; at 48, Tom Cruise Just about Still Has What It Takes to Play an Action Hero -- and Certainly Knows How to Deliver a Popcorn Movie; FILM OF THE WEEK

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton

KNIGHT AND DAY Cert 12A, 109 mins ***

THE main thing I've learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing," Hitchcock told Truffaut. "It doesn't matter what it is." Just as well. In Knight and Day, the MacGuffin is a battery. Just the one. Not much bigger than an AA. It's impressively called a Zephyr and we're told it can power a small city indefinitely but, even so, the fact remains -- it's a battery they're all dying for.

We pick up Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) at Wichita airport where he bumps into a stranger, June Havens (Cameron Diaz), twice, on either side of security. Funny! When she's then told she can't get on the flight to Boston, Roy says to her in a cryptic sort of way: "Sometimes things happen for a reason." But then they put her on the plane anyway.

The aircraft is nearly empty, just a few sinister guys at the back. "I hope this isn't going to be a rough flight," says June, an innocent. "It might be," says Roy, seeming almost to look forward to that. They flirt, she goes to the rest room to freshen up. And while she's primping, every person on the plane, including the pilots, tries to kill Roy.

With fists, knives and guns, a roiling fight, up and down the aisle, Roy whacking the lot, bringing everything to hand into play. It's about now that you know you're in for a treat, rather than a brain-teaser -- this film wants to go down like popcorn, and it does.

June sashays back and, not noticing everyone else is dead, as you don't, sometimes, gives Roy a big kiss. She likes him! Although she still freaks out when she finally grasps exactly how he's "contained the situation". Roy crashes the jet into a field of maize and kindly gives June a little drink to calm her nerves. It's dope.

She awakes the next day safe and well in her own bed -- and Roy has not only left her some helpful Post-it notes but also a lovely omelette for brekkers. This is the first of a series of swoonings in the film during each of which Roy and June escape from impossible situations -- he puts her out three times, she returns the favour once -- without there being even a token explanation of what's happened in between. One moment, they're on a Caribbean island being attacked from the air, the next June comes round on a train in Austria. Wha'? But this isn't lazy shorthand or gross structural ineptitude by the director, James Mangold (maker of the excellent Walk the Line and 3.10 to Yuma).

It works as part of the dreamy letting go this film invites -- and a sign of the development of trust between Roy and June.

Assailed both by the CIA and by "worse guys" employed by a Spanish arms dealer, the pair scarper from one scenic location to another in a series of hectic set pieces -- a bouncy car-chase in Boston, a vicious fight in the kitchen of that train, an escape across the rooftops of Salzburg, motorbike madness amid rampaging bulls in Seville. …

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