Knight and Day [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (19th February 2011).
The Film

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the finished version of “Knight and Day” (2010) since last year. Sometime around April 2010, my friend scored passes to see a “major summer action film” at our local theater. Since the summer of 2010 was light on action, I surmised that it had to be either this film or “The Expendables” (2010). It turned out to be this film, and we were the very first audience to watch it. The movie was still very rough, with many major scenes full of animatics and unfinished CGI work, but the film worked for me. Even though I’m not even close to being a fan of Cameron Diaz, I do love me some Tom Cruise. Say what you will about the man as a couch-jumping, Xenu-worshipping nutcase, but he is a solid actor who knows how to make his movies entertaining and fun. Even in its unfinished form, I could tell that director James Mangold had crafted an action film with heavy Hitchcock-style undertones that allowed Cruise to run wild with the material. But it took a long time for the film to come together. The script had existed in Hollywood for a number of years, going through several writers and titles before being realized as the finished version we now have. Unfortunately, it underperformed at the box office, but I think a large part of that lies with the fact that audiences have seemingly all but abandoned Cruise as a leading man of action. I agree that he’s done a great deal to tarnish his once mint-condition image, but this was a film that should have helped to get him back on track.

The character of Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) is one of the best roles Cruise has had in years. He knows he’s got a lot to do if he ever wants to be embraced by the public again, but I think the end has already come for his career as a leading man. Well, scratch that… as a leading man commanding $20 million per picture. The upcoming “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (2011) should be a great determinant of whether or not he can reclaim his position as a worldwide action star. But this role in “Knight and Day” is a good start. Miller is a top secret agent – one of the best in the world – but his erratic behavior and penchant for over-the-top stunts have made him a liability to his agency, as they think he’s gone rogue. After a chance encounter during the opening moments with June Havens (Cameron Diaz), he spends the remainder of the film tracking her down and trying to keep her safe from men he thinks intend to kill her. There’s a lot of stunt work here, much of it highly improbable and laughably excessive, but the tongue-in-cheek manner in which Cruise pulls it off makes it easier to digest. Miller is like Ethan Hunt, Cruise’s character from “Mission: Impossible” (1996), if Hunt were slightly nutty and had a wry sense of humor. Numerous actors had been attached to this project over the years – Chris Tucker, Adam Sandler, even Gene Hackman – but I doubt any of them could have done better than Cruise. He does crazy real good.

Someone could have done better than Diaz, though. I’ve never been on her bandwagon. She’s someone I’ve always identified as an acne-faced, duck-lipped airhead who casting couch-ed her way to the top. She’s shrill and annoying – someone I’d rather see killed in the opening frames of any film. But despite my complete and utter disdain for her acting, she’s not entirely bad here. There are plenty of moments where she’s as irritating as possible, most of them when Roy is planning something major to get them out of a jam, but Cruise commands so much of the screen that she gets overshadowed whenever they appear together. Towards the end, the script gives her the magical ability to wield two handguns while Cruise commandeers a motorcycle. Apparently, just because she’s a tomboy it means that she can fire guns in addition to rattling off specs about classic American muscle cars. I wasn’t buying it, but when you’re watching a romantic action comedy, it’s practically a given that the lead female will be popping caps like a gangsta.

Director James Mangold hasn’t dabbled much in the realm of action or comedy. He’s best known for his Academy Award-winning biopic on country legend Johnny Cash, “Walk the Line” (2005). The closest he’s come to an action film was 2007’s “3:10 To Yuma”, and I’d hesitate in calling it that. But he does very well with films that focus on characters rather than their actions. I think the best work he’s done was with Sly Stallone playing against type in “Cop Land” (1997). That was a brilliant piece of filmmaking and featured one helluva ensemble cast. “Knight and Day” is his big-budget homage to Alfred Hitchcock. The plot – a civilian caught up in international espionage – echoes “North by Northwest” (1959), except the gender roles have been swapped. June starts off as clueless as Cary Grant did in that film, spending the film’s runtime learning bit by bit what exactly she’s caught in. There’s even a direct homage to “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), and a portion of the film’s action takes place on a train, just as in that film. For his efforts, I think Mangold succeeded, though I’d never directly compare this slice of cinema to anything Hitchcock produced. But the light tone and frenetic action that are established early on never let up, enabling the film to be far more fun than I was expecting.

If there were two things I didn’t like about the film, they were one particular cast member, and the score. Wait, three things – I thought the scene where June visits Roy’s parents was entirely unnecessary and served only to give the film a sweeter denouement. But first and foremost is Peter Saarsgard as Agent Fitzgerald. Saarsgard always appears lazy on camera, like he has 20 other things to do more important than acting in whatever movie has cast him. His role here finds him occasionally adopting a southern accent, one which he seems to lose frequently. I’ve never found him to have much charisma; he almost appears to be sleepwalking through his role. Luckily, his character isn’t made the focus too often. The second thing I disliked was the score by John Powell. It isn’t that it’s terrible, but I don’t know if it fit with the tone of the film. I detected some Bernard Herrmann influence, so it would be in keeping with Mangold’s Hitchcock theme, but I didn’t feel like it gelled with the final product. Again, it’s not like I found it to be so bad it was distracting; I simply felt that something a little punchier would have been better suited to the picture.

There’s an extended cut of the film available on Blu-ray in foreign markets, but not in America. Even more confounding is that this longer cut is available to watch on-demand in many American markets; I have the option to watch it through my cable company. Since this cut was not included on the US release, I have to assume that either Fox didn’t think audiences would care about it, or a double-dip is coming with a more impressive slate of extras along with this alternate cut. The longer version runs an additional 7 minutes and, based on what I’ve read about the added scenes, sounds like it would improve some of the flow. I hope it surfaces someday, but if it doesn’t you can always import a foreign Blu-ray (if you have a Region free player as current version are locked to region "B").

Video

Fox rarely disappoints with their Blu-ray releases, so I was a little surprised that this slick new production didn’t bowl me over with a reference-quality transfer. The 2.40:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is far from disappointing, but there were some deficiencies that keep it from being top-notch. I noted several instances of soft focus throughout the film, especially during June’s first meeting with Fitzgerald. This could have been due to the lenses used for filming, but it was distracting nonetheless. Black levels were generally solid, but a few scenes that take place at night in Italy appeared to have some crushing. But, as I said, these were minor. The majority of the film looks splendid, with some great colors popping off the screen, particularly when June & Roy are at his Jamaican hideaway. Skin tones are perfect – although this probably works against Diaz who wears a metric ton of makeup to hide her pimply skin. Cruise, on the other hand, has never looked better. The guy doesn’t age. The best aspect of this picture is the international feel it’s given, with every location leaping off the screen. The Running of the Bulls in Spain is exquisite – the colors of the city are vibrant and full of life. Detail is equally as impressive – just check out the lines on June’s Pontiac, or the individual brow hairs on Cruise’s face. Nothing is left to the imagination. Overall, despite a few flaws, this is simply a great image.

Audio

Not looking to be a slouch, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48 kHz/24-bit sounds robust and dynamic, with some big action scenes meant to explode out of your speakers. Cruise spends almost the entire running time shooting people, so expect a great deal of gunfire panning from every corner of your home theater. Things get blowed up real good often – the destruction at Roy’s hideaway pummeled my system with rocket impacts and machine gun fire that surely pissed off my neighbors. I did think the opening plane crash could have used a little more action from the LFE track, but the number of effects at work during that scene still left me impressed. There are plenty of high-speed chases throughout the film, so cars and motorcycles whip by with some fantastic directionality. And, even though I wasn’t the biggest fan, John Powell’s score was perfectly balanced to fit the action of the film. Dialogue was clear and well-centered, never at a lower tone than the rest of the film.
French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks are also included. Subtitles are available for English SDH and Spanish.

Extras

When studios make such a big deal about “combo packs” and all the value you’re getting for your dollar, it can be easy to forget about having a substantial amount of bonus features included with the film. This 3-disc set packs in a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy, but the actual bonus features amount to a whole lot of nothing. There are several featurettes, viral videos, trailers, BD-Live extras and more – but nothing of much substance. There’s no comprehensive making-of documentary, no commentary tracks, no deleted footage. I know Fox wanted the film to perform better at the box office (although, I should note this was their highest-grossing film of 2010 worldwide), but that’s no excuse to skimp on the good stuff.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

“Wilder Knights and Crazier Days” (1080p) is a featurette which runs for 12 minutes and 30 seconds. This behind-the-scenes piece focuses mostly on the film’s stunts, especially the work done by both Cruise and Diaz who, according to the film’s stunt coordinator, could be stuntmen if they weren’t actors. Cruise has been making films like this for years, and it’s impressive to see some of what he’s capable of after so much practice.

“Boston Days and Spanish Knights” (1080p) is a featurette which runs for 8 minutes and 10 seconds. Director James Mangold talks about the film’s worldwide locations and why they were chosen. He intended to give the picture an international feel, while also showcasing spots that aren’t used in film very often.

“Knight and “Someday” featuring the Black Eyed Peas and Tom Cruise” (1080i) is a featurette that runs for 9 minutes and 9 seconds. Cruise commissioned the popular (and horrendous) group to write the closing song for this movie. Here, we see Tom (and his wife, Katie Holmes) as they meet the band on tour in the UK and listen to the final track.

“Viral Video: Soccer” (1080i) featurette runs for 1 minute and 10 seconds. Watch Tom and Cameron “kick” a soccer ball around on set. This would have been better if it weren’t so obvious the ball is CGI.

“Viral Video: Kick” (1080i) featurette runs for 1 minute and 23 seconds. In this second set-up clip, Diaz practices some high kicks, one of which hits Cruise in the chest and sends him flying into the craft services table.

“Knight and Day: Story” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 3 minutes and 50 seconds. The running time should be an indicator that this is just another fluff EPK piece, full of the usual film clips and talking heads.

“Knight and Day: Scope” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 3 minutes and 5 seconds. More EPK fluff, this time focused on director James Mangold and the film’s international locations.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 26 seconds.

“Digital Copy ‘How To’” (1080p) promo runs for 3 minutes and 35 seconds. Obviously, the insert that explains how to redeem it isn’t clear enough.

Bonus trailers (1080p) which precede the main menu are included for the following:

- “The A-Team” runs for 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
- “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” runs for 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
- “Street Kings 2” runs for 32 seconds.

The disc also has a bookmarks feature for keeping track of your favorite scenes.

The disc is BD-Live enabled, and there are (surprisingly) some features relevant to the film. Aside from the “Live Lookup” interactive feature, which uses the IMDb search engine to give viewers information on the actors in the film, the site also has one exclusive featurette, “Not Your Regular Spy” (720p) runs for 2 minutes and 42 seconds. It’s more EPK-style information, this time looking at Cruise’s eccentric and deadly spy character.

DISC TWO: DVD

The second disc is a DVD containing a standard-definition version of the film.

The only extras included are the “Wilder Knights and Crazier Days” and “Knight and “Someday” featuring the Black Eyed Peas and Tom Cruisefeaturettes. Both “Viral Videos” are also found here, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer, the main menu is preceded by the same bonus trailers listed above.

DISC THREE:

This is the film’s digital copy for use with iTunes and Windows Media devices. The file is 1.60 GB.

Packaging

The 3-disc set comes housed in a standard amaray keepcase with. There is a slip-cover with matching cover art included.

Overall

Don’t expect some riveting, superbly written thriller (this did have several writers, after all). If you want to watch a light-hearted spy movie with a simple plot and lots of action, then this is your vehicle. Diaz might still annoy me, but Cruise is in top form here and the film works solely because of his efforts. Mangold is a competent director who knows how to keep the pace up without dragging the film down. I expected the third act might have fizzled out, but things only got more intense. It’s a fun ride.

The Film: B- Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: C Overall: B-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.