It’s been close to 30 years since Tom Cruise first donned the Wayfarers in Risky Business, but here he is again in Knight And Day, and nothing’s changed—not the sunglasses, not the shit-eating grin, not the air of supreme self-confidence that carries him from the first frame to the last. In spite of the many hairline cracks in his veneer of cool—his performances in Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia, his very public meltdown, the natural persistence of middle age—Cruise continues to pretend he’s on top, rather than revealing himself as slightly vulnerable and human. As a rogue secret agent in Knight And Day, Cruise is thrown into many sticky situations, with legions of trained assassins surrounding him on all sides, but he never once suggests that things aren’t entirely under control. It’s profoundly boring to watch a hero without weaknesses; after all, even Superman has Kryptonite.
Knight And Day gets off to a reasonably promising start, as Cruise flirts with everywoman Cameron Diaz on a commercial flight to Boston, otherwise populated exclusively by agents he intends to kill. Director James Mangold (Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma) takes his time establishing a nice rapport between the two while building tension for the mêlée to come. When Diaz returns from the bathroom and discovers that everyone but Cruise is dead, it sets up a potentially uneasy situation over who to trust. Cruise later warns her to run from officials, using buzzwords like “safety” and “security,” which isn’t that reassuring: If Cruise were really a danger to her, wouldn’t Diaz expect her protectors to use the same language?
Sadly, everything is much simpler than it seems. Questions over Cruise’s intentions give way to a transcontinental chase in pursuit of the world’s most amazing battery, with Diaz just whisked along for the ride. Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis are underutilized as Cruise’s adversaries, Paul Dano lets a scraggly mustache carry his performance as the McGuffin-maker, and the plot doesn’t twist or turn so much as link one poorly orchestrated action setpiece to the next. Throughout it all, Cruise doesn’t allow even the single bead of sweat that dropped in Mission: Impossible to escape his pores; he’s clinging hard to that last rung of superstardom, hoping no one will notice his hand is slipping.