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Why the Knight and Day Trailer Might Help Rescue Tom Cruise’s Career

Ever since Tom Cruise got up on Oprah’s couch and declared his love for Katie Holmes half a decade ago (2005!), our relationship with the star has been strained. There have been some films — Mission Impossible III, Lions for Lambs, Valkyrie — that didn’t do as well as they once would have, but mostly, there has been a lot of weirdness, lots of Scientology, lots of Katie Holmes, and lots of manic intensity. Now comes Knight and Day, Cruise’s movie about a possibly deranged covert agent on the run with Cameron Diaz. It’s his first film in a year and a half, and yet another referendum on his waxing/waning star power. As we mentioned when the trailer first appeared, we can understand why Cruise might be attracted to a project about a guy who successfully proves he’s not a nutjob — but what it took us a little longer to figure out is why the trailer makes Knight and Day seem like the movie that might, just finally, get Cruise’s career back on track. (Sorry, Les Grossman: You’re not going to be the one to do.) It’s because the Knight and Day trailer is a two-and-a-half-minute recap, explanation, and apology for the last five years of Cruise’s life, with an as yet unrealized happy ending tacked on.

The trailer (which you can find below) can be broken down into five distinct acts.

Act 1: Letting us know our mixed feelings about Tom Cruise are appropriate.
The trailer opens with Cameron Diaz talking about Tom Cruise. She is really weirded out and confused by him. When he approaches her table she says, “No, no, no.” She does not want to see Tom Cruise! We feel her, as she is our stand in, but he comes over anyway. “Hi [audience],” he says, “maybe I didn’t make it clear enough, but we’re going to have to stick together.” We, like Cameron Diaz and Rodney, the man sitting next to her, wonder why this is true. Before we can ask, Tom Cruise holds up the restaurant, and shoots Rodney in the leg. “Through and though, no bone, nowhere near the femoral artery,” Cruise explains, smiling his intense do-gooder smile. “It’s all good. You might even get a promotion.” We see more than a glimmer of the man who, when he sees an accident by the side of the road, knows what to do.

Act 2: Owning up to the weirdness.
There’s going to be no sugar coating here. Accept responsibility. Ask for forgiveness; it’s the only way to heal. The trailer explains that Tom Cruise is crazy. “They’ll tell you I’m mentally unstable, violent, dangerous — it will all sound very convincing,” Cruise tells Diaz. “I’m already convinced,” Diaz, ever our trusty avatar, replies. Then Peter Sarsgaard explains further: “Until a week ago Miller was one of the most trusted [movie stars] in the world.” “What happened a week ago? Diaz wonders. “A full-blown break with reality.”

Act 3: Building back our trust.
So we’re aboard the Tom Cruise is a wack-job train. But, you know what else he is, the Knight and Day trailer is quick to remind us? Really good at making things explode while being charming. To prove it, Cruise blows up a truck with some well-placed bullet holes in a gas tank, while complimenting Cameron Diaz on her dress. It’s like Cruise says: “Without me, [the fun you will have in a movie theater] is here,” he points low, “with me it’s here,” he points high. “Without me here, with me here, with me, without me.”

Act 4: A moment of doubt.
But are we sold yet? Because this is a Scientologist spy, and we can’t just lose our head when he makes things go bang. “I don’t know exactly what to believe,” Diaz says on our behalf. And then Tom Cruise does what Tom Cruise does best: He saves her life. He is a good guy!

Act 5: Enjoying a Tom Cruise action movie in the first time in forever and it feels good.
Whew! That was rough! But we got through it, and now Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz can run around with motorcycles and guns and bulls, without even making that many jokes, and we are totally onboard. All you had to do was acknowledge the crazy, Tom!

Epilogue: Cameron Diaz is now the spaz who runs around like a dingbat, while Tom Cruise competently counts to three.

Photo: 20th Century Fox