I almost want to recommend that folks run out and see this movie ‘Knowing’ in theaters, on the biggest screen possible with the best sound possible if for no other reason than to experience the Subway crash masterpiece scene that the director of the this film, Alex Proyas, has pulled off. If Irwin Allen were still alive and had seen this particular scene he would have silently wept in his popcorn. It is truly one of the most amazing scenes of pure mayhem and disaster I’ve ever seen. The things they can do with computers nowadays I tell you. But as sweet as that scene was we still have to determine the worth of a movie as a sum of its parts, and though the sum of ‘Knowing’ doesn’t rise to the levels set forth by its amazing special effects, it is still an interesting take on the impending end of days.
In 1959 Dawes Elementary school has decided to do one of those time capsule things with all of the children drawing what they think their visions of the world will be in fifty years. Except the spooky Lucinda (Lara Robinson). Instead drawing a robot or a rocket ship, Lucinda scribbles down a near endless array of numbers until her teacher finally takes her paper away and sticks it in the metal tube, locked away until 2009.
Naturally this leads us to the present day where we meet the recently widowed M.I.T. astrophysicist professor John Koestler (Nicholas Cage). I gotta say that Dr. Koestler’s advanced astrophysics class didn’t seem all that difficult to me. Heck, I know how hot the sun is. I should’ve applied to go to M.I.T. Anyway, Koestler teaches during the day and cares for his precocious, hearing impaired son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) during his evenings and sandwiches frequent bouts of heavy drinking in between. Then they open the tube at Caleb’s school with Caleb receiving Lucinda’s cryptic number list. What does it mean? I did mention that Dr. Koestler is an M.I.T. professor which makes him really, really smart and he has deciphered Lucinda’s cryptic numerology as the dates and death tolls of every major world disaster in the last fifty years… with more to come. How in the world could a nine year old girl predict this?
Now Dr. Koestler is on a mission because there are more tragedies pending and more importantly, they seem to involve his son in some way who he feels might be in some danger. You see there are these spooky looking pale people dressed in black who whisper stuff to Caleb and their intentions are quite ambiguous. Dr. Koestler also connects with Lucinda’s adult daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) and Diana’s young daughter Abby (again, Lara Robinson) as the Doc hopes that Diana may have some insight on how her mother knew these things and what can he do to stop THE END OF DAYS!!!
While attempting to process what I had seen in this film from Proyas, I was trying to figure out what exactly the director was trying to say. I don’t think it’s one of those ‘we’re mistreating the Earth so we don’t deserve to possess it anymore' type of movies considering the relative randomness of these disasters. So I’m thinking it’s a faith based film, though it does seem a bit heavy handed in its delivery, at least on the surface because there is a whole lot of other more subtle biblical references which can be gleaned from the narrative if one really wants to dig deep and engage in numerous Internet round table discussions, but that’s for someone else to tackle, not us. The only thing we ultimately care about over here is did we like the movie or not.
The answer to that is yes, for the most part. Proyas is a very visual director as he shown in his some of his previous movies such as ‘Dark City’ and ‘I, Robot’ and has a very dark, Giger approach to his filmmaking, and from the outset of ‘Knowing’ you get an undertone of foreboding which never leaves until perhaps the films final scene. This impending sense of doom keeps one interested in the film and also propels you into following Dr. Koestler in unveiling the mysteries of the numerology, and wondering, once the code becomes clear, what he’s going to do to stop what seems to be the inevitable.
As far as the performances in the movie goes Nick Cage is Nick Cage, and I know the man has a pocket full of loot and an Academy Award on his mantle but he rarely deviates from what he does as an actor no matter what the role. The good thing here is that what he does is effective in transferring the theology doubts of his character to the audience and more importantly moving the story forward. Rose Byrne has the saddest pair of expressive eyes and didn’t need to say a word to convey her angst with the situation she is in and the child actors were more than up for the task in what they were required to do for this movie.
There were some things that were perplexing in this movie such as the purpose of these mysterious characters giving these prophecies to these children, particularly the child in the fifties, especially considering there was really nothing one could do stem any of these disasters, also there were these black rocks in the movie that had a meaning that I can’t begin to imagine what their significance represented, and the heavy handed final scene had the disturbing tinge of the ‘Blue Lagoon’ attached to it. All of which will probably lead to more intense Internet round table discussions.
Nonetheless ‘Knowing’ was a good disaster movie with some amazing visual effects and a great, painful performance by Rose Byrne’s eyes, but it was a bit murkier as a thematic religious film that was all at once over bearing, yet reluctant to commit totally to the theological aspects it was attempting to examine.