Tom Cruise has played the superspy many times before, most notably in the Mission Impossible series. He could have very easily done that same thing again, being the spy who knows every move to accomplish his goal. On paper he is playing those beats again, but his performance suggests otherwise. What brings this movie a lot of spark is that he plays his character of Roy Miller like a crazy person.
Miller first encounters June Havens (Cameron Diaz) when they are two of the only people on a flight. They start up a flirting conversation that plays out longer than most films would have patience for. This is not an insult towards the film; it actually seemed believable. It’s refreshing to allow characters to form a relationship instead of just forcing it upon us. While June steps briefly into the bathroom, Miller kills the rest of the people on the plane who were evil agents. The fight scene ends with both pilots accidently being killed so Miller has to land the plane. This is when June returns.
So she gets caught up in this espionage tangle where agents want to kill Roy and take a powerful battery/McGuffin away from him. She finds it difficult to trust him because, like I said, he’s a bit unstable. He’s still smoother than Jack Sparrow, but is more like the recent incarnation of The Doctor. You’ll follow him into battle, but never take him home to meet your parents. Cruise’s performance and character allows scenes to feel fresh instead of the usual shoot ‘um up scenes.
There are more touches like this through the script. Director James Mangold and screenwriter Patrick O’Neill have clever ways to go through the action. There is a fun scene where June has been sedated and she only sees what is going on every twenty minutes or so and she see’s Roy in the middle of various outrageous action moments.
The film does get trapped with a few familiar things. Peter Sarsgaard and Paul Dano are incredibly underused as the villain and the genius archetypes. Also I heavily push for movies to never allow characters to ironically repeat lines from other characters.
The wit in this film is not necessarily quotable, but just surprising. It is progress towards taking more risks with a bigger budget. Audiences respond to seeing something new and I think that will serve this movie well.