Tom Cruise returns to form in this entertaining action-comedy from director James Mangold ("3:10 to Yuma"). Cruise and co-star Cameron Diaz are an effervescent on-screen pair, but a silly plot and excessive runtime make "Knight and Day" more suitable for the Netflix queue than a cineplex excursion.
The high-octane flick gets off to a fast start as timid auto enthusiast June Havens (Diaz) literally bumps into handsome stranger Roy Miller (Cruise) at the airport, both headed to Boston. Only a handful of passengers join them on the plane, though June seems too enamored with Roy's charming pleasantries to notice. While June makes a quick visit to the restroom, Roy gets in an all-out knock 'em, sock 'em fight with the "passengers" (aka bad guys).
When June exits the restroom to find herself surrounded by bloody bodies while a surprisingly calm Roy tries to land the crashing plane (the sinister pilots were also dispatched in the struggle), her once-mundane life suddenly gets thrust into turbo. It turns out Roy is an American spy tasked with protecting a powerful new energy source and its genius inventor (Paul Dano of "There Will Be Blood") -- and June is along for the wild ride. Together the unlikely partners traverse lapping waves and foreign lands while being hunted by a dubious FBI agent (Peter Sarsgaard of "An Education") and horde of gun-toting miscreants.
Cruise is not the failsafe, bankable actor he once was, thanks mostly to his outspoken Scientology beliefs and couch-hopping episode on Oprah. But his performance here reminds us of what made him a star in the first place. His undeniable charisma and effortless humor exemplify the qualities of a solid leading man. Diaz adds to the fun with a carefree and sincere portrayal, and her June is incredibly likable. Dano is well cast as the quirky tech whiz, but Sarsgaard and Oscar nominee Viola Davis ("Doubt") are wasted in one-dimensional roles.
The script is somewhat of an anomaly. The goofy, seen-it-before plot wrestles with clever and sometimes hilarious dialogue and compelling character dynamics. The action is fast-paced and bolstered by impressive visual effects (a scene involving a stampede of bulls is particularly enthralling). But like sitting on a rollercoaster for one ride too many, the 130-minute runtime feels unnecessary and may turn off viewers who would have been much more satisfied with a shorter film.
Cruise and Diaz shine, but their union is better left for a night at home than a day at the theater.