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Knight and Day

Year: 2010
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: James Mangold
Writer: Patrick O'Neill
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano

I should be far more forgiving of this turkey – it's not the first brainless roller coaster ride of action and laughs. But I'm actually having a hard time understanding why I disliked it so much. Is it because I expected so much more from actors of this calibre? Diaz can certainly do better and despite Cruise's increasingly cracked off-screen persona he's still a great actor when he tries.

The problem was that it was all star wattage and big dumb fun, the sort of thing audiences loved in the 1940s but which isn't enough to sustain a movie today. There wasn't even a single, stand-out sequence of outrageous action (think the ravine jump in Cliffhanger or the White House attack in Independence Day) that sold the whole movie.

When Cruise is in name-above-title/million-dollar-smile mode like he is here, he's boring. Just like in Mission Impossible 2 he fails to convince as a stoic tough guy. Worse still for a comedy, he's simply not funny. Give him a character besides the Tom Cruise All American Can-Do Hero to slip into (Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, Frank Mackey in Magnolia) and he'll own the screen. Here, he's just a shouty part of the furniture.

He plays an indestructible secret FBI agent the plucky June (Diaz) meets on a plane. While she's working up the courage to ask him out, he kills everyone on board and crashes in a cornfield. Drugging her and taking her back home, he warns June people will come to tell her he's a rogue agent, but that she shouldn't trust them. When they do June doesn't know who to believe, and he keeps turning up in her life to rescue her in the nick of time from one explosive situation to another.

It's fast-paced and globetrotting and would have looked great on paper. It has thrills, spills, laughs and a fast pace. The reason it fails so badly is more because of what's missing than anything wrong with what's actually there. And the only thing I can think to attribute it to is the mysterious X factor that's hard to grasp and conceptualise and even harder to achieve.

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