Knowing (2009)

16 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Knowing” is a science-fiction thriller directed by Alex Proyas. For those who don’t know, Proyas made the 1998 sci-fi film “Dark City” which served as a strong parable about how we sometimes don’t understand the world we live in. “Knowing” is like that in the way that it asks the question or whether the universe is random or deterministic. It’s a film about a man who discovers the answer…

The film opens in 1959 at an elementary school, where students are asked to create drawings of what they think the future will bring. A girl named Lucinda (Lara Robinson) suddenly hears voices that instruct her to line her paper with random rows of numbers…or are they random? Fast-forward to 2009, where the time capsule is opened with all the drawings inside. Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) winds up in possession of Lucinda’s numbers and shows it to his father John (Nicolas Cage), an M.I.T. astrophysicist. Koestler becomes obsessed with this paper once he notices patterns in these numbers. He realizes that these numbers are warnings for death—dates, times, longitude/latitude, and even the numbers of victims who die at that time or place.

The setup of “Knowing” is investing and pretty intriguing. There’s a good deal of tension drawn in the scenes where Koestler figures things out, and Cage actually manages to sell his reaction scenes with credibility. There are interesting questions of fate and risk that come into place, as Koestler discovers that since there are events that happened long after the numbers were written, he could figure out what’s going to happen next, and possibly find a way to stop it. But is it possible to save lives of those who are predetermined? This is a dangerous question for someone who has previously believed that stuff just happens.

As Koestler digs further into the clues, he’s able to track down Lucinda’s daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) and granddaughter Abby (Lara Robinson again), hoping they’ll be able to help. As the story progresses, Caleb and Diana team up to discover what the last few numbers on the paper mean. But meanwhile, Caleb and Abby are being watched from afar by mysterious strangers who whisper in the night.

And it’s here that “Knowing” falls apart. The story stops being interesting and becomes more tiresome and really ridiculous. While the conflict is there as something bad unfolds for the Earth, the excitement isn’t present and the resolution is less than satisfying—it’s underwhelming. The truth behind these strangers and the numbers is beyond ridiculous. This is supposed to be the big twist to the story. I wanted a more complex ending.

Nicolas Cage is credible in the first half, but as things go downhill, so does his performance. He can’t stop yelling, which is understandable given the circumstances, but Cage is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to laugh at him. Rose Byrne, however, is consistently convincing and creates a sympathetic character opposite Cage.

The disaster sequences are nicely staged, but the use of CGI is always obvious. A train crash in the middle of the film doesn’t look very real, and there’s another scene in which a plane crashes, but while the plane looks real, the flames around it look incredibly fake. But it should also be said that the final effect—not giving anything away—is a genuinely horrific, but effective visual.

“Knowing” starts off by grabbing your attention, but diminishes midway through. Give it credit for not being an ordinary disaster movie and using an intriguing idea to play off of, but they should have thought more about a satisfying purpose.

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