Andy Bockelman: ‘Knight and Day’ works well on Cruise control

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Movie at a glance

“Knight and Day”

3 out of 4 stars

130 minutes

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard and Paul Dano.

One of the driving themes behind most movie pairings is the idea that opposites attract.

Of course, the real moneymaker in Hollywood is to augment that idea further by saying “attractive opposites attract.” And no matter how dissimilar you and your significant other may be, you’ll find a thing or two to share about the latest romance/action/comedy, even if you’re as different as “Knight and Day.”

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

June Havens (Cameron Diaz) has never put much stock in this axiom, but that was before she met Roy Miller (Tom Cruise).

Meeting the charming mystery man on a flight to Boston, June is quickly taken with him — until he kills every other passenger on the plane, including the pilots. Barely escaping from the wreckage, June doesn’t remember a thing about the ordeal, but when a group of threatening government agents begins interrogating her about her recent travel ordeal, she’s no less worried.

However, what June doesn’t know is that coming into contact with Roy has ensured her safety for the immediate future, as the handsome stranger — who just happens to be a secret agent — not only rescues her, but brings her in to his agenda, an espionage-driven jaunt around the globe that June could never imagine.

The “Charlie’s Angels” movies saw Diaz as a giggly blonde who could beat up a roomful of men without batting an eye, and June could not be any more different, panicking every time she and her traveling companion face an obstacle, narrowly skirting disaster time and again.

Though she’s playing a much more dependent and feeble role here, the actress’s talents are better used in this capacity, taking the time to prove to the audience that she’s not just along for the ride with a counterpart who has much more experience in the action genre.

Judging by the way Roy moves, it’s hard to believe Cruise is nearing 50, but somehow he makes it all look easy with shades of his work from the “Mission: Impossible” series shining thr-

ough. What makes his performance better, is that he’s actually funny without being jokey like so many other stars when they attempt to combine the worlds of humor and action.

The rest of the cast does well, though relegated to the background, including Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis as the agents on the lookout for Roy, at least one of whom has nefarious intentions, as these affairs tend to go; Marc Blucas as June’s blundering ex-boyfriend, Rodney; and Paul Dano as young scientific genius Simon, whose brilliant mind and naiveté makes him a liability, requiring Roy’s protection.

The movie takes its name from the figurine concealing Simon’s earth-shattering invention, which Roy will go to any lengths to protect. That devotion takes him to a wide range of world locations, such as Pamplona, Spain; Salzburg, Austria; and the isles of the Azores.

When you can relocate to a pristine tropical paradise — now that’s commitment to a job. One thing you can say about director James Mangold is that he knows how to bring some panache to what would otherwise be a strictly by-the-numbers outing.

Like “Girl, Interrupted,” “Walk the Line” or “3:10 to Yuma,” the filmmaker takes us on a ride that excites and intrigues us while making us forget that the story itself is nothing special.

A brief homage to the Austrian-set film noir “The Third Man” helps too.

The slick aesthetics of “Knight and Day” make it watchable, but that little extra something comes from the stars, who engage in a perilous juggling act throughout. Managing the combination of love story and actioner, Cruise and Diaz never drop the ball, and even inspire a few laughs.

When you can perform a feat like this, it almost makes the act of shooting a man in the leg with a clean exit wound seem like a cakewalk. But still, leave it to the professionals, folks.

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