A suave Tom Cruise and a flustered Cameron Diaz (wow, what a stretch for both actors) bump into each other at Wichita airport, and a few minutes later do so again. Diaz thinks she might be on to something with the charming hunk, but she is more accurately into something, and in far out of her depth, as the plain flight turns into a gun battle and forced landing. Before she knows it, she doesn’t know where to turn and whom to trust: the various menacing government officials (headed up by a sinister Peter Sarsgaard), or the cheery but possibly psychotic rogue Cruise. There will be many a narrow escape and an international location visited before she knows the answer.
Tom Cruise’s return to action-adventure films was almost more notable for the off-screen backstory than the on-screen action. This, of course, was the film he chose to do when he backed out of the darker-edged Salt, where he was replaced by the rather more convincing Angelina Jolie, and which proceeded to beat Knight and Day at the domestic box office. (In fairness, neither film was a giant hit, and the overall worldwide business of both was pretty close.)
At any rate, Knight and Day is a deliberate throwback. What it wants to invoke is the likes of Charade and North by Northwest – those delicious concoctions that mixed romance, laughs, a sparkling light tone and real thrills while characters chased after a McGuffin (in this instance, a perpetual energy battery). Triggering those memories in viewers is a risk. If you’re going to do that, you’d better be up to the comparison, and Knight and Day is not. Cruise flashes his pearly whites and runs about a lot, but he’s no Cary Grant. Most particularly, he isn’t the aging Grant of Charade, a film which played most wittily on the fact that its male lead was not as young as he once was. Here, an actor who isn’t as young as once was tries to pretend that he is. And while the action scenes are initially diverting enough, and feature some laughs, they become tiresome by the end, and the air has departed this particular balloon long before the closing credits roll.
The transfer is nothing short of stunning. The colours are explosive, the contrasts beyond reproach, and the blacks just as good. Flesh tones are superb, and the sharpness is astounding. So every tiny feature of characters’ faces pops out, and minor details – such as the subtleties of the play of sunlight hitting one side of Cruise’s face – don’t seem that minor after all. This is, though, another case where the extreme quality of the Blu-ray picture actually does the film no favours. Every minute human blemish seems magnified, for one thing. So during a scene set on an island paradise, our leads parade around in bathing suits, and one is suddenly struck by the fact that they are a) getting older; and b) actual human beings. More of a real problem is that the computer origin of some of the effects is now far more apparent than (I suspect) would have been the case on the big screen. An airplane exploding in mid-air now looks like the cheapest of desktop effects, robbing the moment of any impact whatsoever. As this is not due to any flaw as such in the transfer, what we may have here is a challenge to filmmakers to create the next revolution in FX. They suddenly need to be much better. Meanwhile, back with the disc, the AVC codec keeps the rate between 20 and 35 mpbs, and the film’s 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio has been respected. A very nice job.
Before I get to the very, very nice things about the DTS track, my one principle reservation: the volume seems a bit weak. I had to crank things about a third higher than I would normally do, in order to get the properly immersive effect. But that little knob twist out of the way, things were very good indeed. The surround elements plunge the viewer deep into the film, surround one with the ambient noises of the airport in the opening seconds, and never letting up. The score is driving, and if the movie isn’t as exciting as it thinks it is, that is no fault of the audio track. The placement and clarity of effects is startling. I wondered why I hear an electronic buzzer sound in one corner of my basement, only to discover that it was a dryer in the film Similarly, an overhead pounding that sent me running upstairs to answer the door turned out be equally fictional. Through all this activity, the dialogue remains perfectly clear and free of distortion.
And now the weakest aspect of this release becomes apparent. First, what’s on offer here:
Wilder Knights and Crazier Days: (12:30) A featurette concentrating on the action in the film.
Boston Days and Spanish Knights: (8:10) The international locations of the film.
Knight and Someday: (9:09) Cruise and Katie Holmes attending the premiere performance of the Black Eyed Peas’ closing credits song.
Viral Video: Soccer: (1:10) Gag promotional video showing Cruise and Diaz performing impossible soccer tricks.
Viral Video: Kick: (1:23) Another gag, with Diaz knocking Cruise down with a kick.
Knight and Day – Story: (3:50) A shorter featurette, with emphasis on guess what.
Knight and Day – Scope: (3:05) And we’re back to locations again, with this featurette and the previous one recycling footage from the first two.
Live Extras: Look up info using the IMDB while you watch the film, or watch yet another promotional featurette: “Not Your Regular Spy.”
There is no commentary track, and as you can guess, the material here is entirely promotional. What the point is of featuring nothing but glorified ads on a product that has already been purchased and watched is beyond me, but there you have it.
DVD Copy. With the “Wilder Knights” and “Someday” extras, along with the Viral Videos.
A beautiful looking, slick package, but thin on substance. Just like the movie itself.