Here is an film that should, in theory, work. Two huge movie stars that, despite certain PR horrors involving couches and aliens, have a very big fan base, excellent supporting actors, and more action than you can shake a runaway train at.
But it doesn’t work. And not just because the trailers show Tom Cruise acting (allegedly) in the unflattering potential-psycho milieu he’s been cultivating in his personal life over the past few years as Roy Miller, rogue FBI Agent and potentially deluded psychopath. In fact, Cruise’s deadpan, uber-calm pragmatism as the inscrutable Miller is probably the best part of the film.
Miller’s psychological credibility is up in the air from the beginning, which feels like life imitating art, as he takes June Havens (Cameron Diaz, looking, dare I suggest, a little worse for wear), a garage-owning woman who never sets foot outside her tiny world, on a global adventure as they run from the FBI and shady arms dealer, all after a tiny everlasting battery, invented by teen genius Simon Feck (Paul Dano) whom Miller is sworn to protect. The ensuing cat and mouse chase sequences, resplendent with, yes, expensive and slick action scenes, is impregnated with doubt as to who we should be rooting for – that is, if you aren’t already familiar with Cruise’s lifelong policy to almost never play the bad guy. Ultimately, there is no mystery here.
There’s nothing glaringly wrong with this film, (and there are one or two nice lines) except that it simply feels tired. We’ve seen Cruise do this bigger and better in the Mission Impossible movies, and we’ve seen Diaz kick ass a lot less wimperingly and a lot more effectively in the Charlie’s Angels movies. Why do a watered down version of essentially the same movie framework?
There’s a recurring motif of the transference of trust between the two lead characters, by which Miller drugs June every time a situation arises – say, a hangar full of men with machine guns, an about to explode helicopter – that he thinks she can’t handle. There’s a reason the film seems hollow – you can’t just drug someone caught in an inescapable predicament, and have them wake up in another country with little to no explanation – it’s boring and not really in the spirit of the genre.
There’s able support from the always watchable Peter Sarsgaard as Miller’s relentless pursuer, but rising star Paul Dano is sadly given very little to do here. It’s always upsetting to watch a film with so much talent and money involved and find you just don’t care about any of the characters. If you want to see what it looks like when Diaz and Cruise actually have some meat to chew on, watch Vanilla Sky instead.