Knowing Review

Published 6 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

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  1. As long as the ending is better than ‘Signs’, I’ll be happy

  2. “(I don’t know when showing people on fire coming out of the wreckage of a burning plane became PG-13 material)”

    I don’t know how many times I have to say this when people gripe about a movie being PG-13 instead of rated R, PG-13 does not prevent violence, only gore, sex, and certain curse words. That’s it, and movies can do without them and be perfectly exciting movies to watch.

    I’m not saying you’re griping, I just thought you brought up the perfect example for people who will argue with me to say that it does make a movie more “tame” or have less violence.

  3. Looks like I will be waiting until this comes out on DVD. Gotta love Netflix!

    I do tend to like Nicolas Cage films, though. Even ones that are so-so. I know Ghost Rider was awful, but I still though Cage did a decent job. I thought National Treasure was fantastic and the 2nd one was entertaining as well. I’m hoping for a 3rd in the series.

  4. Wow another Lame’o for poor Old nick…
    it kind of sad actually…
    Here’s hopping GR2 will be great…
    (Fat Chance)

  5. I really wish this had been better – it was a very cool concept, bringing up the debate between fate or the idea that the future is not set.

    It wasn’t the execution – the film was well done, but it might have worked better with someone other than Cage. I also just didn’t like the resolution and some of the plot points and holes took away from my enjoyment of the film.


  6. “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.”

    Okay, I don’t get this. “Suspend your disbelief”? This really bugs me about people. The whole point of movies is “what if” (other than documentaries). Movie plots revolve around extraordinary events for a several reasons. It’s more fun to watch something that doesn’t happen everyday.

    And yet people throw their hands up about “unrealistic” events and “suspending your disbelief”. Why? It’s already a made up story about some crazy event. Why pick a part of a movie and complain that it is “far fetched” or “unrealistic”?

    Just open up your mind and enjoy the movie. You’ll enjoy so many movies and enjoy them so much more if you go in with an open mind.

  7. @ogb

    That’s fine for you but not for me. I’m getting tired of explaining this – what happens in a film MUST be plausible within the universe established by that film.

    I can buy a guy who builds a suit of combat armor in a cave because a foundation was laid in Iron Man that makes that PLAUSIBLE. He’s a genius, he has an extensive backround in engineering, he’s into tinkering with car engines, all the supplies he needs are given to him.

    On the other hand if you had a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy that was the usual thing, and then at the very end of the movie she blasted the guy who dumped her with laser beams with her eyes, that would be BEYOND my ability to suspend disbelief.

    In a movie you have to build a plausible universe/scenario, EVEN when it comes to fantasy, horror and sci-fi films.


  8. FYI, I’ve upgraded my rating of this from 2.5/5 to 3/5. Upon further reflection I think the first part of the film is good enough to warrant that.


  9. Love Proyas , Hate Nic Cage. Dark City is one of my favorite films ever and if you have not seen it the Blu-Ray is about the most gorgeous Blu-Ray ever. The entire Matrix saga was directly ripped off from Dark City. Story, theme, even the colors in the way it was shot.

    Problem is I hate Nic Cage So much I may not be able to allow myself to see the movie even on Blu when it comes out. Sigh,….

  10. Vic. I don’t mean to stir up anything. I love this website. And I’m glad to see your outlook.

    But “plausible in the universe created by the movie” is a very BROAD and LOOSE term. I completely understand how much a person’s own outlook and imagination plays a role in this. I’m very open minded when it comes to entertainment so I love immersing myself in a movie and it’s “universe” and find myself enjoying more movies and enjoying the “good” movies more than an average person.

    I guess I’m trying to get people to be more open minded but not trying to sway anyone towards my way of thinking.

    ANYWAY…glad you changed your ranking a little higher. I think directors like Proyas deserve success. I’d rather see a “bad” movie by Proyas than a “good” movie that’s at the top of the box office by some crappy director.

  11. Well for the last few Cage movies I think 3/5 is pretty good for

    But yeah this review is pretty much what I thought about the movie from previews, could be good but it looks like it’s going to have some plot holes and not hold up throughout. I might rent it but that’s about it.

  12. It makes you wonder how much better the film would have been if they had a better actor than Nicolas Cage huh?

  13. the movie was good. The beginning was great but as the movie started to unfold it became weird, creepy, and very confusing. The stalker people are kind of creepy…I really don’t know what to think about it. If you see it don’t think about to hard like I am, if you do the movie will seem horrible. If you are a strong christian like I am you will be really annoyed and confused… it really wrestles with your beliefs. If you like sci-fi you will love it. I agree with Vic 100%.


    We pretty much agree on this film. My review is up here….

    Here’s what I posted on Roger Ebert’s blog (SPOILERS ABOUND!) ….

    I attended the same screening you did and while I find that Proyas and crew did an amazing job, the film was hijacked and derailed by Cage. It starts with such a geat X-Files type premise and then after the plane crash, the script and the acting takes a nosedive as well. Koestler’s characterization started out very interesting. He’s clearly haunted by the death of his wife, is doing his best to raise his only child, and has gotten to the point where he is teaching without any solid belief or passion (likely connected to his wife’s death). Right away I thought this could be good. We could actually see Cage acting again. But then, after the crash, Koestler’s behavior becomes simply unrealistic and unbelievable at just about every turn.

    When he finds out where the next disaster is going to be, he leaves his only child and what….what is he gonna do when he gets to the location? Sure, he tried to alert the FBI by calling them but…. that’s it. Now what? How does he go from an MIT professor to an action hero with (yet again!) a flashlight? We see him (and eventually Rose Byrne’s character) more than once leave their children alone in their vehicle while they investigate their numerical mystery. Real nice.

    And what of these “whisper men”? They had a little girl scramble off some numbers that would predict 50 years worth of catastrophes and….then what? Nothing. It gets locked away in a time capsule and all these numbers come true. Millions die. So why did these whisper men care? What was the purpose of ruining Lucinda’s life? What was the purpose of those smooth little black rocks? Handy keepsakes? Why did one show up on the phone booth where Diana was and then in the debris of her accident? So, she’d be safe….where? Why her and not Koestler?

    Since all the Lucinda numbers were coming true and we’re revealing the end of the world (surprise, how many times have we seen NYC destroyed?) then what were the numbers Caleb was scribbling out? What did they represent? What were they for? Gah!

    And the ending where we see many other crystal ships taking off. Who “whispered” those inhabitants into those ships? I guess Lucinda and her lineage and Koestler and son weren’t all that special after all.

    When I have this many questions coming out of a screening, that means the plot holes and/or the acting (in this case, both) have superceded anything I enjoyed from Proyas. He made a visually stunning film with some very intriguing themes….that dwindled and ultimately lost itself. In the end, the themes of randomness and determination became secondary to Cage’s gape-mouthed action prof.

    It’s great that the themes in this movie made you think but looking at the movie on many levels….it just doesn’t hold up. It seems with this 4 star review and your review of “Watchmen” that when you are really moved by a certain aspect or element of a film anything about the film that doesn’t hold up is irrelevant. I’m a sci-fi fan, a comic book geek and a film enthusiast and in all the films I’ve seen I’ve found that what really matters is a great script and then solid cast to uphold that script. After that, everything else should fall into place (ideally) and that didn’t happen here or in “Watchmen”.

  15. I kept on thinking Keifer Sutherland in this role while watching it….of course, that may have been cuz the screening I attended was on Monday and I was missing 24!

  16. @ogb

    [I] love immersing myself in a movie and it’s “universe”

    EXACTLY! So do I, but the wrong thing happening or being shown in a film can abruptly kick me out of that universe. Like if something happens that just doesn’t make sense, or some blatant product placement.


  17. @nick

    As a Christian the movie didn’t cause me to “wrestle with my beliefs,” it just annoyed me.


  18. Vic,

    Just got home from this movie, and I’ve gotta say you were way too nice. The beginning that you say makes up for the movie was only about the first 20-30minutes of this 2 hour+ movie.

    Ridiculous plot holes and bad acting from every cast member. Oh, but I do completely agree about the plane and the train scenes. PG-13? No way. Those were very intense, graphic scenes.


  19. I was thinking.
    If you remove the certain element that feels tacked-on, and focus on the possibility of prophecy and disaster/end of days mentality, then it’s… amazing.

    I think the movie might merit a fan-cut removing the… bad aspect. Haha

  20. Knowing was such a good movie!! and the ending was awesome i don’t understand y ppl think the ending was bad! Anyway it was great nd i loved the ending it was so unexpected!

  21. @Alice

    I did say in my review that some people would really like the ending. :-)


  22. I’ll never get the Nic Cage hate I think he is a great actor and anyone who doesn’t should probably watch his films. I mean Leaving Las Vegas is an amazing film and Nic’s performance was perfect. No one hated Nic cage until the last few years now it just suddenly seems popular to rag on the guy.

  23. I think you gave far too much plot summary for what sounds like something that should have went straight to DVD.

    Aside from that, Nicholas Cage has all but lost any shred of acting credibility.

    I haven’t seen the movie, and don’t plan on it, but I still think you were too easy on it.

  24. Daniel F,

    Regarding your concerns about Nicholas Cage’s reputation as an actor…

    He has been in 11 films since 2005. 7 of which are these:

    Bangkok Dangerous
    National Treasure: Book of Secrets
    Ghost Rider
    The Wicker Man
    The Ant Bully (voice)

    The expression “how the mighty hath fallen” is very apt here.

  25. Yes recently his films have not been great. The point is he has proven in the past that he is an excellent actor. I don’t mind people saying in the last few years he has chosen terrible films. It’s true and understandable. However saying he is a bad actor is just inaccurate.

  26. I enjoyed it, so did my wife. Fantastic story, made you think about our mortality, randomness, and destiny. Acting was very good & effects were great. It’s a fantasy, no matter how real you want it to be, or is it?

  27. well, I think it kinda made sense that he jumbled it all up in the end, no one really knows how the world will end people can imagine but there really is no knowing how it will end, and there are parts in life where things that you see have no meaning but they are attached to something that does, as a symbol of some sort. like that black rocks. they meant the crazy people were around. and then other crystal things just were other people. maybe even animals that were being “ubducted” and there seperate situations would have looked the same as nicolas cage’s and what not they had no idea anyone else knew about the whisperers … but that just because they just didnt know. it was about adam and eve in the end… and the start of a new world, the whisperer men in my opinion were angles or w/e and the tree was the tree of knowledge

  28. Great review! The varied responses given here at Rant ALWAYS lead me to a better perspective towards how I decide to spend my precious time, and money, for mine own cinematic enjoyment. Isn’t that what a great Movie Review Blog site should be? Yes-in-deedy! Thanks to all the writers! Even when there is at times, such debated views. Everyone is great. *Free Passes to everyone! DISCLAIMER: *Date undertermined at present time.
    I wanted to Rant a bit about Mr. Nicolas Cage. This has been building for a while I am finding.
    To me, what makes or breaks any movie is the skill and depth of the actors. Across the board. Regardless of the genre. Hmmmmmm, Mr. Nicolas Cage. I think I have a basic understanding (opinion) of the invariably entertaining Nicolas Cage. For consideration: He is an actor who seems to want gold stars (or statues) for continuing to portray extremely unique and difficult characters. Example; the duel-lead parts of the mildly disturbing film: Adaption. I do not think that constitutes as talent. Entertaining, yes. But so is my puppy. Capisce? Am I being too rough? I, myself, tend to not feel completely at ease, even feeling forced at times, at working to see the depth in many of Cage’s roles. I try. I really do. I do respect his work as he does seem to be personally gifted and enjoying the ride of himself as an actor, seems to have an honest personal self-respect for his craft, but still, in doing these off the chart characterisation parts, I still feel many of his skills still remain overacted or flat and two-dimensional. Maybe that is the fascination that is Nick Cage? Sorta-maybe Keanue vogue? Ha? Combined with his unique look and stature? Maybe it’s just me?
    It seems Cage is either choosing these such diverse roles, mostly overtly complex and/or disturbing. Or maybe it’s the money that’s too durn good? Maybe supply and demand? Or he’s being threatened. I don’t know. I think he’s extremely eclectic, and in a positive way. Where others fail. But a character actor at best. Anybody else sense this? Am I alone in my analysis? I feel he isn’t that talented of an actor. Entertaining but not talented. Maybe others feel his diversity is talent. Not I. I tend to feel uneasy with believing the depth of many of Cages roles. I do respect his work, as he does seem to be thrilled being an actor, and he seems to honestly respect his craft, but in doing so the characters still usually remain flat and somehow two dimentional, In My Humble Opinion. Maybe that is the fascination that is Nick Cage? Combined with his unique look and stature? Maybe it’s just me? Anybody sense this? Am I alone noticing such? He plays parts that maybe don’t lean towards his strengths? Of which there are many. Did I mention that maybe it’s me? I tend to enjoy movies with Nicolas Cage, He does have his own niche of sorts. I basically will see this at somepoint to be entertained by Cage’s work. Not at the cinema. I at least like him that much. I usually have to really REALLY want a sure-fire movie to get the wonderful full atmosphere of the cinema experience that deserves my time. ATMOSPHERE. Yeah, that uncludes you: Mr./Ms. coughing every three seconds for two hours. I think that is the reason that I have a projection surround system to watch my movies. My own theatre. No coughing allowed. Yeah me. I love most the room full of pulsation light that I am caught up in. YeeHaw.

    Pardon me, back to topic…Mr. Cage has portrayed the infamous alcoholic Ben Sanderson in Leaving Las Vegas, which I consider one of his better performances, then he portrays the momma’s boy Jack Singer in Honeymoon in Vegas. Which I consider weak acting. Extreme, polar opposite views of Vegas as well as characters. Nicolas is diverse in his ability to take on a plethora of wildly and different parts but, (I’m going out on a limb here) almost never creating fullness of character others do. Where is his true ability to pull the most he can out of the script. Now, you ask me….”think you can do better?” Right? Go ahead Say it. I did. I’ve got my right to evaluate his work applied to my mind, yes? Well, regardless of how I feel, it hasn’t seemed to affect his popularity or ability to get work. He has such a unique look, maybe that is why I almost never take him seriously. Sounds Prejudiced. It’s not. Remember Peggy Sue Got Married? Mama Mia’! Charlie Bordell ?! I liked the movie, but I didn’t like him. !Surprise! He reminds me of a straighter counterpart of comedian Bill Murray, and I mean that when he isn’t trying. Naturally, slightly awkward. Am I bashing? I really seem to be dissin’ on good ole’ Nicky…not trying to. Remember him starting in Fast Times At Ridgemont High? Moonstruck? Yuk. Then Wild at Heart then It Could Happen To You then The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Snake Eyes, then to the off-the-wall 8mm, (which is a very creepy movie) then Gone In Sixty Seconds right to his National Treasure sequels (I expect more). I’m really not a fan of the National Treasure movies. But I do think he belongs in that character Then you have Family Man, Matchstick Men, The Weather Man, The Wicker Man all the way to Ghost Rider, but I can’t think of one that stands out as Oscar worthy. Every character he portrays seems to be someone uniquely special/complex, personalities that you’ve never seen. I’ve typecasted him I guess. Maybe I know too much about his real lifestyle that it has affected my judgement of his acting. I can accept that and be more objective. Although his win with Leaving Las Vegas doesn’t seem too misplaced. I prefer quality over quantity. Too much maybe? I don’t think i’ll have any more coffee.

    As I write this I remember I own more than half a dozen of his movies….and looking forward to seeing this one. Everything with a tablespoon of honey.

    I feel better now that I have gotten my RANT off. You guys are great, Thanks.


    This movie was excellent. As a Christian, I think this movie is a great way to open the eyes of those who are lost and not saved. Most don’t realize that this is how it will happen in the end, the non-believers will be destroyed in the lake of fire(symbolized by the sun). I am sixteen and I had chills during this entire movie. I pray that when people watch this movie they will realize that they need God in their life!