REVIEW: Knowing [2009]

“What about the uncircled numbers?”

Thank you Alex Proyas for not making Rose Byrne into Nicolas Cage’s love interest for your newest film Knowing. I’ll admit, from the trailers, I thought that was exactly what would happen—pretty young woman somehow falling for the crazy-haired one. It is Hollywood, so it wasn’t too far-fetched to believe. But that wasn’t the only surprise in this sci-fi thriller. No, the biggest one has to be the fact that it was pretty good. For some reason, despite the pretty great early track record for Proyas, I keep getting worried with each new film before being won over by the final result. Sure, this and I, Robot aren’t great films, but for genre fare, such as they are, you can do a lot worse. While I’d love to see another Dark City-caliber work come in the future, I can deal with the solid, if not obvious, scripts he’s been choosing to bring to life.

I remember seeing the trailer and thinking Knowing would be your run-of-the-mill prophecy-based plot, proving disaster after disaster until our hero can save the day. Then the second teaser came out showing some creepy, dark-clothed men in the woods—perhaps foreshadowing an intriguing alien aspect to it all. But it is with the poster that truly sets the stage for what is about to happen. Yes, the future predicting is there as the whole basis of the story is upon a two-sided piece of paper with dates, deaths, and coordinates, written by a young girl in 1959 and sealed in a time capsule for fifty years; and yes, don’t be surprised to witness a spaceship or alien or two either. However, it is the seemingly misplaced image of the Earth at the center of the one-sheet, appearing to be starting on fire at the bottom that alludes to the apocalyptic theme running rampant throughout. There are just too many mentions of the sun or burning to just push them to the side as coincidence. Especially with a script so heavy in Determinism … Professor John Koestler would be so proud.

Speaking of Koestler, at the center of it all is Nic Cage’s performance as this MIT astrophysicist. Recently widowed, he is now raising his son alone, allowing his scientific predilections take over his strong religious background. With a pastor as a father and a devote mother and sister, it is Koestler’s wife’s death that shows him how random and meaningless life is. There is no grand plan; everything is just a sequence of chance chemical reactions, leading more to chaos than any methodical progression. That all changes with the discovery of young Lucinda’s cryptic message in the capsule, the lone page devoid of an image of what the future will hold like the rest of the class drew. Her artifact ends up being a literal translation of the future, showing the exact dates and death counts for major disasters around the world. It cannot be a coincidence then that the page found its way into the hands of his son, who subsequently begins to hear whispers like those heard fifty years previous. What is first thought to be a malfunction of his hearing aid, you will soon begin to wonder if those whispers—the jumbled sounds reaching his mind—are the reason he has the aid to begin with.

By no means is this thing a masterpiece. Besides the usual hammy performance we have learned to embrace from Cage, (and he was so good in Leaving Las Vegas, I guess they all become caricatures of themselves at some point), we have the very convenient story progressions needed to allow the tale to play out in a reasonable amount of time. The fact that a piece of paper has dates for five decades, yet the final three all happen within a week is a massive coincidence. But, rather than dismiss it as lazy writing, you could chalk it up to one more example of how everything happening is doing so for a reason. Everything, all the good, (marriage, a son), and the bad, (wife’s death, a pretty impressive plane crash sequence), put Cage’s Koestler on a collision course with his destiny, or at least onto a path in which he can help lead his boy to his. I actually enjoyed his role, for the most part, and for every cringe-worthy instance, there was a genuine showing of emotion. Chandler Canterbury does well as his son, expressing the rebellious nature of a boy his age, questioning his father’s motivations and parenting skills, while also lending a mechanical aspect to instill some creepiness. If you want real oddity, though, look no further than Lara Robinson’s blank stares as the young Lucinda and later on as her granddaughter Abby. Why have two actresses when you can have one play both in order to keep the familial resemblance in tact? Heck Rose Byrne does the same as Diana, the woman who believes Cage and helps him discover the true meaning of the numbers, as well as Lucinda’s adult form in photos.

Knowing is a fun ride that ends in a very effective manner: giving me the sad ending that I wanted and hoped the filmmakers didn’t copout from doing as well as the happy one giving a sense of hope for the future. As a result, the story itself becomes quite strong with it’s lecturing on the subject of fate as well as the allusions to God and creation itself. With some pretty good effects—besides the plane crash carnage, also enjoy the subway derailment, something about people being crushed against high-speed moving glass worked for me—you shouldn’t be disappointed if you set out to be entertained by a decent action thriller. If, instead, you wanted an intelligent script that would blow you away in its originality … well, you’ve come to the wrong movie. Sit back, allow your brain to be stimulated ever so slightly, and just have a good time. I just hope those kids don’t eat any apples, because we all know how that ended up the first time.

Knowing 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

[1] ROSE BYRNE (left) and NICOLAS CAGE (right) star in KNOWING, a Summit Entertainment release. Photo Credit: Vince Valitutti
[2] CHANDLER CANTERBURY (left) and LARA ROBINSON (right) star in KNOWING, a Summit Entertainment release. Photo Credit: Vince Valitutti


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