Tom Cruise has been a movie star for more than 25 years. But in that time, "fun" is an adjective that rarely has been applied to his screen persona.
But, as he shows in James Mangold's Knight and Day, the generally intense Cruise can lighten up. Even as he approaches 50, Cruise broadens his range -- maybe not to a Cary Grant level of charm, perhaps, but certainly to something a lot less determined and disciplined than usual: something that approaches actual goofiness.
As Roy Miller, a mysterious and winning guy who pops into the life of June Havens (Cameron Diaz) in the Wichita airport, Cruise is ineffably polite, to the point of solicitousness. He knows right from the start that he is about to visit havoc on June's life, so he wants to make it as painless and enjoyable as possible for her.
What follows is a story that rocks happily along for almost an hour, as June finds herself caught up in Roy's mission: to protect the inventor of a perpetual-energy battery and keep the battery itself from falling into the wrong hands. She's with Roy when he lands a plane (whose entire crew he's eliminated after they attack him) in the middle of a cornfield, then when he rescues her from a group of government agents in the middle of Boston. They wind up on an island in the Azores, then in the Austrian Alps, before finishing up in Spain.
As I said, the movie bubbles happily for almost an hour before it flags. It dips into doldrums for a half-hour or so, then rights itself again for a finale that finds the same light touch as the beginning. And it all has to do with Cruise's jolly performance and the way it contrasts with Diaz's increasing sense of panic.
Much of that comes from Patrick O'Neill's script, which owes a significant debt to the Stanley Donen film, Charade, and its Peter Stone script. Like that 1963 vehicle for Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Knight and Day is about a woman accidentally caught up in a plot with many moving parts, whose only guide is a charming but seemingly unreliable guy, who keeps saving her bacon after first putting her in harm's way.