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