Knowing Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated March 20th, 2009 at 10:22 am,

Short version: Knowing starts out strong, but despite some impressive (and very intense) visual effects, unravels as it goes on.

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Screen Rant reviews Knowing

I went into Knowing very neutral – I hadn’t heard much about it and the premise and trailer looked pretty promising. I realize Nicolas Cage hasn’t exactly been hitting it out of the park lately, but call me crazy: I like the guy despite the crazy hair and eccentric acting.

Knowing opens in 1959, on an elementary school playground – all the kids are running around and having fun except for one little girl, standing off on her own very still. Her name is Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) and she’s obviously the “weird kid” in the class. She actually reminded me of a young Christina Ricci from her role in the 1991 film The Addams Family.

Anyway, students were supposed to come up with a way to commemmorate something having to do with the school, and she was the one who came up with the winning idea: a time capsule. The teacher asked everyone to draw a picture of what they thought the future would be like 50 years from then, but instead Lucinda filled two sides of a sheet of paper with densely packed, apparantly random numbers.The teacher comes around to collect papers and feels pity for little Lucinda, who just seems out of sorts – and the teacher takes the paper from her, apparently (to me) before she was done.

Cut to present day and we have astrophysicist and MIT professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) and his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), living together in a nice home in a heavily wooded area. John’s wife has died not too long ago, and both he and Caleb are struggling to learn to live without her. John is drowning his sorrows in whiskey while trying to teach college class, work as a scientist and raise his son.

Of course we are now at the 50th anniversary of the burial of the time capsule, and Caleb ends up with the list of numbers penned by Lucinda. Even though Koestler has been drinking, one night he becomes curious about the numbers and manages to find the date of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 – not only that, but it seems that the number of people killed that day are also on the paper.

He starts scouring the sheet for other significant dates and finds tons of them – everything from natural disasters to accidents involving airplanes, fires, etc. This freaks him out, and not just for the obvious reasons, but because after the death of his wife he’s come to believe that everything is a result of random chance. This shows quite the opposite.

As a matter of fact he sees that 81 people are supposed to die the very next day, and right about here is where an intriguing premise and beginning of a movie starts to go off the rails. On that next day, he’s watching the news, desperately looking for a disaster that matches up with the prophecy. He finally falls asleep, but has to go pick up his son at school. And what happens? Within yards of where he’s standing during a traffic jam a small airplane crashes into the ground.

Don’t get me wrong… it was actually one of the cooler scenes in the movie, and the most intense (I don’t know when showing people on fire coming out of the wreckage of a burning plane became PG-13 material), but the fact that it happened at the exact location where he was strained credulity.

Being a scientist kind of guy, he tries to learn more about this mystery and tracks down Lucinda’s daughter Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne). Of course at first she thinks he’s a nutjob, but eventually comes around. She has a little girl and both she and Caleb start hearing the same “whispers” in their heads that Lucinda heard. There are also these pale, blond goth looking guys in long black coats who pop up mysteriously from time to time, who are obviously connected to the paper and to what’s happening.

From here John tries to stop the events that are predicted on the paper, and ominously, it seems like the final event which is only days away indicates the end of the world.

OK, a movie like this really hinges on what, precisely, the “secret” is and the ending – that can make or break the movie. The film started out actually quite cool, creepy and VERY intense but as it goes on you start to figure out that these guys that are appearing are one of three things: Angels, demons or aliens. The film throws in some biblical references (and Cage’s character is estranged from his father, a Pastor) and when it comes to the rather fantastic (and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way) ending, I suppose depending on your point of view you may call it ambiguous or you’ll say it was actually one thing or another (I’m trying not to give anything away).

I think that if you’re a sci-fi fan the end will be satisfying, if you’re a New Age person you’ll get something different from the ending – and if you’re a Christian it may very well annoy the heck out of you (it did, me).

So in the end, is Knowing worth checking out? It depends – how much can you suspend your disbelief? It’s a cool premise but honestly, it’s got a lot of plot holes that were hard for me to get past by the end of the film. If you don’t think about it too hard you might enjoy it – or you might even find it funny despite its uber-serious intentions.

I’m kind of bummed about it because I’m a huge fan of director Alex Proyas’ Dark City, but this film certainly doesn’t measure up to that.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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TAGS: 3 star movies, knowing

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  1. As a Christian, Airline pilot and a science dork this movie was kind of disturbing. It is really good at the beginning but the plane crash wasnt a small plane like the review sates B767 or 757 isnt small. The crrash did bother me quite a bit for a while so it did seem pretty realistic. The end would have been better with a touch of some of the christian beliefs that I have but it didnt and I guess that is best for selling purposes. The end is very realistic on solar flares and earth…look into it and it is really amazing to learn how we live on a time clock for one to hit us. Overall I would give it around 3.8/5. Hope you enjoy!

  2. I posted this on a different site but i think it should be here too….

    Let me start off by saying I almost never write reviews but I am amazed at the amount of people who apparently just didn’t get this movie. I just finished watching this movie and I’m not quite sure exactly how I feel about it but I’m going to say I really really liked it. I’m probably confused just cuz I didn’t expect to get so much enjoyment out of this movie. I’m going to go ahead and break my “review” into sections so its a bit easier to read since I have a lot to say.

    Acting: First off, some people don’t like Nicholas Cage. If thats the case why are you watching a movie where he is the main character. I’m glad you’re giving him a chance to redeem himself but don’t be disappointed if he didn’t deliver, you were probably expecting him to suck anyway. I have no problems with Nicholas cage and his acting. I really don’t think you should be going into a movie thinking about the acting in the first place. You should go watch a movie to see a story unfold and not how it was technically made, unless of coarse you are part of or aspiring to be in the industry. Some people said the acting in this movie kinda wooden or emotionless. It might have been part of the style of the movie, though I personal think it fits the characters. This guy is a scientist, he’s rational, plus he’s just gone through some rough stuff. He’s kinda emotionally detached. Whatever the case may be the acting style was intentional and not a mistake or “Bad Acting”.

    Special Effects: I’m not exactly sure what people mean by this. If you’re talking about technically how realistic the CGI created parts look then there is really nothing too special. Most movies theses days have excellent special effects that look completely realistic. If you are talking about how visually appealing the movie is in general then yes the movie does have great visually appealing scenes. Especially the plane crash and the later parts of the movie.

    Storyline: I usually have a hard time following more elaborate storylines but this was very easy for me to follow. I don’t know what people are talking about when they say its full of plot holes. Most things people mention actually are explained, so they probably weren’t paying attention. The other things people mention are things that don’t need to be explained. For instance some ask why the aliens want to help humans in the first place. Well maybe they just thought we were cute and wanted to keep us as pets. Maybe they want to keep the universe in balance. Maybe they want to harvest us for food. The point is they have their reasons, just because it wasn’t explained doesn’t mean they didn’t have one. Others complain that the characters do things that don’t make sense. First of all they are in some pretty unique circumstances so I doubt what people would take as normal behavior would apply here. Second, Of coarse I wouldn’t leave my kids alone in the car especially if I suspected that people where after them, but guess what. I’m not in the movie and neither are you. Unfortunately some people do things like this in real life all the time. Sure it doesn’t make sense but it happens. It actually makes the movie more believable when the characters make mistakes or poor decisions as this more closely resembles real life.

    The Ending: Hearing what people had to say about the ending is what prompted me to write this in the first place. Though I can’t say the “whisper people” turning out to be aliens was completely expected it really wasn’t surprising. People make it seem like the writers were siting around trying to figure out how to end the movie when someone just shouted hey! why don’t we make those creepy guys aliens! To say the alien notion came out of nowhere is completely false. This was definitely integrated throughout the movie. In the very beginning of the movie the whisper people seem like just creepy regular people, but as the film goes on it is revealed that they actually have the ability to whisper into the minds of people and show them visions. This, of coarse, leads to the only conclusion that the whisper people are some kind of supernatural entity be it demon/angel/witch/alien/ghost/psychic etc. By about the halfway point of the movie its really just a matter of finding out which one of these supernatural beings they are going to turn out to be. It wasn’t meant to be a shocking twist and if you were paying attention it wouldn’t have been. I thought the ending was one of the best i’ve seen in a long time. Most movies would have ended after showing the aliens taking the children into space and would have faded to the credits, but it actually continues on a bit more. Bringing closure to what happens to Earth and it’s inhabitants but leaving it up to the viewer as to what will happen to the children on their new planet. I love my happy endings (especially the cheesy 80′s movie kind) where everyone is saved and they all live happily ever after, but this is not one of those movies, it’s not supposed to be. A magical happy ending wouldn’t fit the storyline or the over all darker feel of the rest of the film. It’s a nice sobering experience and is not without its glimmer of hope as the children are given a chance to start over. I would like to point out that some archeologist and historians believe that some of the Earth’s ancient cultures and religious stories are actually influenced by extraterrestrials. For instance the story of Ezekiel being taken up into heaven actually is very similar to modern day stories of alien abduction. To Ezekiel it would seem as an act of God as extraterrestrials would be incomprehensible. If you knew about this alternate theory of world history the portion of the film involving the image of ezekiel would have made more sense as well as the ending. I mentioned this just as another example to prove the alien ending did not just come out of left field and also to bring me to my next topic.

    Religion(Or lack there of): Can someone please explain to me how a christian viewer complained that the movie was anti religious because it implied that God didn’t exist and aliens were responsible for everything and then in the very next post a nonreligious person complained that it was overly religious and he was being forced fed the notion that not accepting God would result in burning in hell which is portrayed by all the “nonbelievers” of the aliens being left to burn on Earth. Seriously people. For the record I am a christian but it really doesn’t matter since this movie really isn’t forcing you to believe in any one way. From what I understand the filmmakers intention was to use the aliens as a metaphor for religion but its really subtly done. I came away with the feeling that the end of the movie with the two kids and the tree implied that the aliens had left humans with a similar situation before on Earth with Adam and Eve and the tree of life, playing into the notion of the alternate history theory i mentioned in the end of the previous section. What I don’t understand is why the christian didn’t see the religious metaphor and why the nonreligious person didn’t take the literal “scientific” view. It would seem to me like they were both looking for a reason to not like this movie.

    THE WHOLE POINT: I believe there a two main reasons people are giving this movie a bad review. First, they went to the movie thinking it would be a genre other than SciFi thanks to the misleading advertising so popular with the film industry these days. It really pisses me off when they tell me a movie is gonna be one way just to get my money and it turns out to be completely different. This would also help explain why most people thought the ending wasn’t good because it supposedly came out of nowhere. Second, People hear the film has bad reviews so they enter the theatre with a negative view about the film and begin to watch for things they would find disagreeable thus becoming a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. If you liked The Day the Earth Stood Still you will love this movie. It’s kinda a mix between that, the movie Signs and War of the Worlds with maybe a little I-Robot and Armageddon thrown in. I am not saying it is impossible not to like this movie. If you don’t like SciFi, fine you probably wont like this movie. If you don’t like Nicholas Cage for some reason then fine you won’t like this movie. I just don’t want people to tell others this movie sucked based on false statements or because its not their particular cup of tea. The movie has to be somewhat interesting for me to write such a long post about it. If you’ve read this far then you definitely have more than enough of an attention span to enjoy this movie. If you don’t want to watch this movie since you already know a lot about it, I would highly suggest viewing this movie a few months later when the hype has died down and it has been released on DVD/BluRay and watch it with a couple of friends. I you don’t enjoy it you’ll at least enjoy the thought provoking debate you and your friends might have or the fun of endless ripping on how “awful” the film was.

  3. Saw it this week, actually quite liked it! It was entertaining enough to keep me interested throughout the whole movie. The CGI disaster scenes were really well done and nicely shot.

    Biggest flaw, for me, was casting Nicolas Cage. I don’t hate the man as an actor, nor do I even dislike him as he did some good things in the past (Matchstick Men, Leaving Las Vegas and Lord of War, to name a few) but what Nicolas lacks is the ability to fully be the character. He always makes it look like it’s “Nicolas Cage doing a character”.

    But, as a whole, I would say 3/5 is a good score. See it in the theater for the effects, but if you just want to see the story, get it on DVD.

  4. I personally loved this movie and as ogb mentioned, its a MOVIE not a documentary. It’s for entertainment purposes..not to educate. Just go, have fun and enjoy the movie. Dissecting the movie as done here just ruins the whole point of a movie. It’s a movie people..Simmer down.

  5. And Kudos to Informer. Brilliantly said.

  6. well, i thought it was a great movie. i believe in god, yes, but i also believe that what happened in the movie makes sense. we all might be just an experiment of aliens, you never know. the mayas and other ancient people had many gods, they all came from up space, there are even drawings of flying objects in egyptians drawings.

    so, i mean, why cant something like that can happen? the world is probably billions of years old, we are only 2009 years old, seems like there is alot of dejavu and things like that. we will return in life after death in another time zone, yes that is what many call reincarnation. think about it.

  7. I think the movie was intended to explain how a blending of religion and destiny can occur. The movie does’nt debunk religion, it offers a way of explaining how early humans may have interacted with aliens and documented it(the bible)and the depictions have changed to what we know today. Take for example during WWII when cargo planes dropped supplies to soldiers on a pacific island. The natives have never seen a plane before, and when they do see it, they interpret that as their god(due to the fact that every time they saw the plane they received food and supplies). Couldn’t we be guilty of the same thing if aliens came and helped us and we interpret them as God/gods? Through depictions in the bible and illustrations throughout time, one could easily believe this to be true.

    Why couldn’t aliens be what we consider “God”? It’s more logical than a lot of other explanations and still fits the mold of the bible(celestial being that oversees all activities, i.e. God).

    Ask any real scientist and they’ll agree that solar flares account for more dedgradation of the ozone than greenhouse gasses. So, as far as the aliens putting a shield up…well maybe they posses many technologies, but forcefields are not one of them. We assume too much from movie aliens and their abilities. Also, maybe by design they wanted the world to be destroyed-I mean rearranged, as science dictates that nothing can be created or destroyed, only rearranged.

    Anyways, the movie is what it is…a movie. Take from it what you want; logic,fantasy, alien gods, prophecy/free will coexistence…

  8. I think the movie was intended to explain how a blending of religion and destiny can occur. The movie does’nt debunk religion, it offers a way of explaining how early humans may have interacted with aliens and documented it(the bible)and the depictions have changed to what we know today. Take for example during WWII when cargo planes dropped supplies to soldiers on a pacific island. The natives have never seen a plane before, and when they do see it, they interpret that as their god(due to the fact that every time they saw the plane they received food and supplies). The natives began building airplane statues out of sticks and mud, much like we build statues of angels(aliens). Couldn’t we be guilty of the same thing if aliens came and helped us and we interpret them as God/gods? Through depictions in the bible and illustrations throughout time, one could easily believe this to be true.

    Why couldn’t aliens be what we consider “God”? It’s more logical than a lot of other explanations and still fits the mold of the bible(celestial being that oversees all activities, i.e. God).

    Ask any real scientist and they’ll agree that solar flares account for more dedgradation of the ozone than greenhouse gasses. So, as far as the aliens putting a shield up…well maybe they posses many technologies, but forcefields are not one of them. We assume too much from movie aliens and their abilities. Also, maybe by design they wanted the world to be destroyed-I mean rearranged, as science dictates that nothing can be created or destroyed, only rearranged.

    Anyways, the movie is what it is…a movie. Take from it what you want; logic,fantasy, alien gods, prophecy/free will coexistence…

  9. Sorry for the late post, I just saw this the other day, and Vic, you are being VERY generous with this review. This movie was downright HORRIBLE. The CGI was pretty bad, some of it looked cool, but for the most part, it was very obvious that it was CGI. And the story… OMG, someone was on crack…

  10. where do i start… only thing i can say is you have to believe humans are actually 2009 years old (see above) to enjoy this crappy movie. i rented this for one dollar from redbox… i feel cheated and robbed.

  11. The worst part of it was Nicolas Cage, he just had to look so damn awkward ALL THE TIME!

    Everytime the camera was on him, he had some really awkward look on his face, WTF?

  12. Personally, I believe in God, and I see how the bible leaves a lot open to the mind and other religions. Personally… The only solid proof (and of course, anyone could have a different understanding about this) that really anyone has come up with are that aliens come from UFOs and the ones that aren’t made into cartoons have gray pigment in their skin, and generally have the body shape of a human being. Now if you really take just that into consideration, the government has already released information, as soon on the news a few times or wherever, that there are MAN MADE UFOs created by the military, this is easy information to find. What if maybe what we call alien’s are maybe just regular people from the future, just so extremely advanced in technology that it’s basically what we survive on, hence the reason for the gray pigment, or lack of sunlight on their skin, and who knows, more psychic and telepathic people are being born onto this earth, and what if that’s the reason the children hear them “whisper” in the movie? Telepathy? They use their spiritual energies and minds rather than existing in a typical human consciousness? I’ve been into this stuff often, and I just thought the movie kinda put that well :p haha, here come the waves of negative comments ;D

  13. I thought about the people from the future thing too with aliens. Because I think it’s kind of far fetched that life can be created millions of light years away and just so happen to have two legs, two arms, a head, eyes, and mouth like us. So either it’s just people always trying to compare everything to themselves and fabricated these stories or they could be somehow related to us, like us in the future or something, lol. But now we know that’s not true because we all die in 2012 right?? :-D

  14. Or maybe they just keep coming to try to warn us not to mess up ;) as I said, I’m a believer in God and the bible, and the bible does say that not even the Son of God will know the moment when he returns to the Earth, but whether you believe in 2012 being the date or whatever, I think that the aliens, or US from the future we’ll say, are perfect examples of us. I believe that after the end of Earth there will be a new Earth created by God and His Children. In the movie (and of course this movie is built NOT NECESSARILY just to be a movie. Many movies are messages that certain people try to get across.) the children are the ones who go with the aliens, and I think that they won’t necessarily have to be children by age, or even maturity, rather than purity, and that the people from the future come to deliver them to a safer place while the 7 years of trials and tribulations occurs, then, along with the rest of them (and honestly, I refer to the aliens, those pure of heart, whatever they are- as Angels) to the new Earth, where, as it is supposed to be according to the bible, where people all exist together as equals. Of course I’m not going to spill myself personally out to everyone, but I have reason to believe that the angels will of course communicate telepathically, never working to have something spoken, nor needing to hide anything. And I think that say if I punched you in the left arm, or cursed to you in some way and hurt your heart, that I would feel the pain in the exact spot on my left arm that I inflicted upon you, or that I would feel the same anger and sorrow that you would had I used foul language against you.

  15. And try to keep in mind I’m not your typical Christian Crusader :p As I said earlier, the bible leaves a lot to the mind if you would not take it so extremely literally, have the thing is in parables anyway. A lot of stuff like this, and like any other subject in the bible, can be found in just about every other religion, Buddhism, Zen, you name it. I am a Christian, and I consider the term Christianity reflective upon not your religion, but your relationship with Christ, or the Master, the God of anything and everything, who could be the same Buddha, or God of any religion that teaches practical morals. So try not to think of me as a preacher, rather than a very openly thinking believer.

  16. as someone above put it, ITS A MOVIE!!!!

  17. I published my opinion on my blog, http://www.MDeGroat.com, but would like to share some of my main thoughts here.

    The movie started off great, in my opinion. It was interesting from the very second Lucinda was introduced to us, and remained so through the first third of the movie.

    As the plot unfolds, things start to become stranger, and events just aren’t that believable, but I would have still called it a good movie. The plane crash was a great scene as far as how real it all looked and how intense it was as John was walking through the wreckage. So far, so good… but…

    The end of this movie was rediculous. I was not expecting a burst of light to omit from the creeper’s mouth. And I was not expecting only the kids to hear them talk. However, after all of this happened, I was already so disappointed and so not interested in the events, I wasn’t really surprised when the crystal-shaped space ship came and gathered the kids.

    The displacing of the particles created a discussion amongst those of us who were watching the movie. That was the most interesting part of the end. The annoying part, just as you said it, was the landing of the children, and the massive run towards the (seemingly) Tree of Life in the middle of the field.

    This TURKEY got a 1/10 just because I enjoyed watching the world finally end and the credits begin to roll.

    Sad.

  18. honestly, i feel really awkward after watching this movie. yes, i am a believer in God but that is not AT ALL how the Bible says its going to be played out. The movie was fantastic…up until the ending. Even during the ending when they were walking toward the overly huge space ship thing (sorry) i was confused as to if they were aliens or not. And who would honestly let their kid, plus someone elses kid go with people or things they had no idea what they are? The movie started out as a very real, very logical movie. But to end the movie in a VERY sci-fi ending, doesnt really match. I really just wish i knew how to explain the way the ending of this movie made me feel. Its not a good thing either. Lastly, the ending scene was a little way over the top. If they were going to bring it that far, they should have at least had the mothers there.

    • well i don’t think the movie makers intended for it to match the end of the world in the Bible. i think it was more of an alternative take on how the human race started here on earth. you just have to displace the new planet in the end with Earth and go back a few million years or however long, then start to write your Bible with the story of Adam and Eve. that seems to be the main intention of the movie.

  19. Did anyone else laugh out loud when he wrote down 0911012029 and put the slashes in the wrong place???? LMAO, that got me rolling, it’s like, the whole reason that string of numbers should have caught his eye was the 09/11 part but he writes it down like he thinks it means something, then puts the slashes in all of the wrong places… If it wasn’t the 9/11 that caught his eye, why did he write that down at all?? When he looked at the coffee ring, I noticed the 9 and 11 together right away, so I thought that’s how it caught his attention too.

    But the airplane scene that people thought was so good, to me, it was pretty bad, VERY obvious CG, even the fire was CG. Come on, most movies have real sets with propane lines to keep fires burning, so they are real looking at least. This one, all of the fire was CG AND YOU CAN TELL. The worst is when he reaches into the fire, and stays like that for a good 5 seconds… A big fire like that, you’ll start getting 1st degree burns just by standing close to it. And by close to it, I mean within 5 feet. His arm was IN the fire along with like 15% of his body and it was like nothing happened… He should have received AT LEAST some 2nd degree burns from it…

    And how the government agents seemed to have given up pursuit in that scene with the train as soon as he got into the subway, come on, they would have chased him down there…

    Anyway, I picked those things to mention because those things occurred toward the beginning while it was still interesting. After that, it started getting really really dumb, so no reason pointing anything specific out, all of it was bad… The only good was how cute Diana was, that was her name right? The mother of the little girl that can also hear the “whispers?” Yah, what a cutey… They were misusing the defibulator at the end, they had to remove her bra, too bad… lol.

  20. Oops, I wrote down the wrong number there in the beginning, but I forgot what it was exactly, it was like 2629 or some weird number like that. Either way it’s wrong anyhow if you actually look it up… Too bad I can’t get google on this network…

  21. This was the most stupid movie I’ve seen in the last couple of years!
    It started very promising with the young girl and the voices, but once the aliens came into the movie, it went from bad to worse.
    WTF does the aliens have to do with this kind of movie! They could make the story more interesting without those idiot creatures.

    What I also didn’t like about the movie, was the special effects. How does the alien open his mouth, and flashes at N C. This was so stupid!

    I recommend you, don’t watch this movie, you’ll be disappointed!

  22. It amazes me that anyone liked this piece crap. What a waste of 122 minutes. It was cliche on top of cliche. Oh and by the way Nicolas Cage with a 10 year son? He would have been better cast as the maudlin grandpop.

  23. at Ken J:
    of course he didn’t notice it tight on the spot. he was already halfway through finishing his whiskey bottle.

  24. I just watched this on Dvd and thought it was great!
    I’d give it a 10 out of 10. I don’t get the problems people had with the aliens/angels. Like one commenter said, its more about symbology.

    Also how did people think this was going to end once you realized that the adults aren’t coming along for the ride?

    I will agree with Vic that this should have been rated R based on the plane and subway crashes.

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