Wednesday, March 9, 2011

DVD Roundup: The American and Knight and Day

There's not a lot to say about either of these movies that hasn't already been said.  But I'll try to give you my thoughts on them.  There's a fair amount a release date can tell you about the kind of movie you're going to see - blockbuster fare isn't released in January, and indie dramas aren't release on the Fourth of July.  Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, and quality usually rises above anything that might hold it back.  But it colors how you go into watching a movie if you know it was released June 23rd versus September 1st.

 First, Knight and Day was heralded as an action-adventure comedy and it succeeded on all of those counts.  Tom Cruise, returning to pre-couch-jumping seriousness but with a bit more wry wisdom than Mission: Impossible days, is a government agent protecting a young scientist when his partner, Peter Skarsgaard, goes rogue and tries to steal the kid and his invention.
However, Cruise manages to outsmart him, but is accused of being rogue himself and has to escape to avoid the fury coming down on him.  At the airport, he meets June (Cameron Diaz - much more capable of this kind of role than Katherine Heigl), and tries to subtly convince her not to get on the plane.  She ignores him of course, and then gets on the plane with only assassins - Cruise takes them all out and has to land the plane in a corn field, but he's drawn to Diaz as she is to him and he doesn't want her hurt by the people trying to find him.
That begins their adventure to stay away from each other but satisfy curiosity beyond all imagining - all women secretly wonder if the guy they just fell for is really a super-spy.  They're cute, and funny, and the action goes from nail-biting to unintentionally hilarious.  Overall, it was FAR superior to the similar story Killers that came out last summer with Heigl and Ashton Kutcher - read my thoughts on that piece of garbage here.  Diaz was believable as the side-kick, she holds a gun like a novice, but not like it's about to blow up.  And Cruise wrangled all of his charisma into a finally understated role.  Oh, and Paul Dano is really cute as the nerdy inventor in over his head.  3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

The American, however, was released AFTER the big blockbuster season, and I don't think was ever hyped as a new Bourne.  And luckily, it's not.  Directed by a Anton Corbijn who has mostly done documentaries and photography of bands like U2 and Metallica.  This lends a very photographic nature to the filming, and one I enjoyed very much.  The details of the movie aren't particularly important - Clooney is a super-spy (and we wonder why women secretly suspect that of all guys) who has been found in Sweden.  His boss sends him to hide in Italy and warns him to stop making friends because they seem to keep dying.  We then follow his attempt to maintain a low profile in a small Italian town where he's just known as The American.  He's responsible for a final job crafting a perfect gun for a job, and befriends a mechanic, a priest and a prostitute.  But rather than being the set-up for a joke, we watch him struggle to keep himself to himself, when you can see he mostly struggles for human connection.  I really enjoyed the movie.  My one big gripe is the subtitles on the DVD.  The SONY label on my TV was almost twice as large as the subtitles.  I had to rewind several times to catch it all, and sometimes just ignored whatever I missed.  Still, the precise words of the script don't matter all that much, it's not a brilliant script, but a very well made movie. Oh, and I didn't like the ending, but i won't spoil it.  4 of 5 stars/lambs


Nick said...

*is totally a cute, funny, super-spy*

Jess said...

And the mystery is revealed. =)