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. This was a terrible movie. But its main weakness is not Nick Cage; it is in fact a mishandling of the story, beginning with the realization that knowing does not mean you can impact the future. In other words, the people here cannot make a difference. So the criticism is with the vision itself; unlike Dark City and the Crow, which were about the infinite spirit of “man” to make difference. The last 25 minutes of Knowing unfold (unravel would be more appropriate) like the screenplay had been lifted from a far right Christian perspective focusing on what some call The Rapture (where the chosen get to leave Earth while it is consumed by the fires of Armageddon. The stylized imagery at the end of the movie is like an overly zealous bit of religious propaganda. The chosen children, those who heard the whisperings of the pale people, romp across a new Eden with their bunny rabbits to re-populate the human species; a second (or third, or fourth) chance. They have forgotten all of their human connections. So there is no human growth here. We do not learn from our mistakes. Of course the writers could have taken a different tack. They could have used instead of “The Rapture” a biblical scene from the Old Testament when the Angel of God said he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if he could find just one righteous soul. Nick Cage played just such a character, and in the end he found a personal redemption, not just because he felt the pain of all those who died in spite of his best efforts to save them, but because at the end, he gave up his only son to a better life knowing he would die. That single act was the act of a truly good man. This is the moment that should have been rewarded with salvation; in fact, from a structural perspective, the entire movie/story had been moving in the direction of the saving the earth. The more intrinsically logical and satisfying end would have been as follows: The pale people (those angelic beings – did you note their wings –, having found the one righteous man, would have banded together to protect the earth from the solar blast, thus giving mankind time to grow spiritually, and providing an ultimately satisfying end to a rather ordinary story overburdened with tiresome clichés.

  2. @Haley

    I disagree with you. The film took the Bible and replaced God with aliens (far more “realistic” to the average person for some reason). As far as I’m concerned it took the Biblical end of the world prophecy and twisted it into something it’s not.

    Basically it said God didn’t create man, aliens planted Adam & Eve on a planet (assuming that this is not the first time they’ve done this). And Revelation doesn’t say that only a couple of kids will be “saved.”


  3. @PDB

    Funny how people with different points of view can look at the same thing and walk away with completely different reactions. :-)

    I actually found that the ending was a sort of attempt at rationalizing the Bible. It wasn’t God, it was…. ALIENS! Makes much more sense, right?

    So I didn’t see the ending at all as supporting The Rapture so much as the story trying to “have its cake and eat it too” by using Biblical prophecy (inaccurately) but taking God out of it. To me it seemed like much more of a New Age promotional slant than Biblical.

    I actually think I would have preferred your ending of the film – seems to me they could have easily imbued the aliens with the ability to put up some sort of shield around the Earth, since the “burst” was temporary in nature.


  4. You guys obviously have not read the director’s comments because you keep saying they ‘replace’ God with aliens. This movie is based on SYMBOLISM. It was aiming at the audience who do not know God. If the non-believers saw the previews and it just had exactly God, they would just think it’s another religious movie and would not see it. Symbolism, Symbolism, Symbolism! Understand that!

  5. I wonder if anyone insulting cage and his ability has seen
    Leaving Las Vegas
    City of Angels

    Both films the he did an amazing job in other notable films for him regardless of the quality of the film his performance was great.

    Lord of War
    Matchstick Men
    Adaptation (He plays a character unlike anything you have seen from him before.)

  6. Just saw the movie today. Loved the plane crash scene. Liked the idea of alien angels. Was confused about the ending. Was this supposed to be the original Eden with the tree of knowledge? Cage’s acting lost me for awhile. he looked lost at times and looked like he just gave up at times.

  7. The movie kept me going throughout. I really did want to know where those rocks were coming from! And Nic Cage is not that bad. But I did find the spilling of his whiskey pretty laughable. (I mean, what true alcoholic is going to let that go to waste?).

    Regarding the god vs. aliens vs. symbolism question: I think I’ll continue to not choose ANY magic space gods to believe in and blithely go on trusting that we humans do have a choice when it comes to our future.

    Otherwise, why not go on sucking up the fossil fuels and melting the icecaps? It’s all predetermined anyway, right?

    It seems that whether the director/writer believes it is God or Aliens that determine our fate, we don’t have ANY choice in it. In the movie, as in many religious beliefs, our only “choice” is to choose to believe in that which is the pre-determiner, or not.

    Although I did like the plane crash scene, I’m going to take a pass on the message of casting my lot with the magic space gods…of any kind.

  8. You know.. I really fail to understand the complaint of “aliens” being present. Seeing as how the beings we call angels would be completely foreign (ALIEN) in appearance to us. I thought it was a decent interpretation of how an an angel may visually appear–humanesque anatomy, yet no determinate sex (as seen by the highly mixed features when they are in their more human “skin”), and wings. I welcome the alternative to the completely human-with-bird-wings rendition of angels of our past art.

    To me, this movie was not entitled Knowing for the knowledge of the actual disasters. It was given the title in the context of knowing Christianity and spirituality. It was knowing of the good that is to come, not knowing the disasters.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, although some of the cast was definitely inadequate, and found very little about it confusing or irritating. It may have had some typical character stereotypes (i.e.- Mister Cage’s drunken intellectual single father), and it may have had almost too perfect and slightly unrealistic dialogue (as seen in the classroom scene when the students seem to respond exactly as they should to progress the storyline), but it had a much deeper symbolism and required much more analytical thought than most films today. Right down to the color choice and animal choice at the end.

    Additionally, in reference to my previous statement about the stereotyping, I think sometimes people forget that there are people fitting these stereotypes that DO exist.

  9. Haley is correct when she says that when a movie is advertised as having religious overtones, a large number of people will not see it. That isn’t to say that EVERYONE is like that…but there is a percentage that prefers to keep such things as politics and religion out of their movie-enjoyment. Is it wrong? Well…that is up to the individual…and I’m sure there is a maelstrom of comments and views on either side of the equation.

  10. I don’t think I’m the only one who thought this movie was undermined by the omission of the “P.H. Double D’s” character. They mention her once at the beginning of the movie, then I’m left wondering where her character will come into play for about 45 minutes.
    I get my hopes up when Cage is on the phone in traffic making plans for the dinner party where she will be at and then *BAM* plane crash, black rocks, Cage, angels that look like the nihilists from Big Lebowski, flaming moose, Cage, unexplained rift with his father, God spaceships, theory of randomness and CAGE!!

  11. Oh my. The first hour of this film is great, I was hooked and thought I had finally found a disaster movie I could get to grips with (Cloverfield is meant to be good, but I suffer terrible motion sickness ;-)) but OH MY GOD **SPOILER ALERT** – the last 25 minutes I was gobsmacked, not in awe but in complete shock – the whole E.T, Scientology ending had the feel that the director just ran out of ideas on how to end the film so punted for something that was 1.) cheap and 2.) completely bonkers. Easily one of, if not number one, of Nicholas Cage’s worst films.

  12. I really loved the movie. I thought Cage did well, even though it wasn’t his best performance by a longshot. My friends and I went to see the movie. I have to agree the ending was a little…”weird,” it didn’t have much of a concept and I found it just stupid. Either way, Cage demonstrated the act of a father having to choose between his son and the rest of the well being of the Earth pretty well. Although things could have gone a little better, the special effects were wonderful and overall, the movie was great.

  13. My take on “Knowing”

    The truth, they didn’t “know” anything and yet, we are left with the feeling that we don’t “know” anything either. Not us, not even the extra-terrestrials. This movie leaves us both: marveled at the amazing technology of the extra-terrestrials, the amazing universe in which we live and hopeless with a feeling of the empty futility of our own little species struggle to survive in this little corner of the universe.

    I am going to help you to shake up that feeling and go on.

    Just think, if the extra-terrestrials were accessing some of our people directly into some of our kids brains for about 50 years (f i f t y years !!!). How come they couldn’t do anything about the impeding cosmic disaster ? with all those amazing space ships, how come they didn’t use their technology to build a shield around the earth and protect it from the solar flair?

    If I was an extra-terrestrial, I would have argued with my other naked brothers, to make better use of that time. F i f t y years !!!, that is a lot of time in earthling years, never mind in extra-terrestrial years. It must to be for them like 500 years to us, plenty of time to save this little planet or this little solar system. They could have even fixed up the sun, so that the flair would have gone in some other direction, or avoid the whole thing from happening at all. They could have even harvest the sun’s energy for some other amazing purposes, and start some great partnership with us … (but I didn’t write the script).

    Now, the scientist, typical Nicolas Cage, that is how a scientist would behave if he was Nicolas Cage. Most great actors (like him), bring their powerful personalities to the character. I think that a real scientist, that knowledgeable, would have acted totally cool, with amazing self control. Instead of running all over the place. Yes, I can understand that if the actor doesn’t run all over, the situation would not be believable. The movie would not sell to the mass audiences (the same kind of people who are “glorified”? by becoming looters at the end of the movie).

    I agree with the other scientist character, the numbers appear coincidental, many seudo religious groups like the Numerologist, Kabbalist, and Pitagorean societies try to extract determinism from randomness. Which in a way, supported the deterministic view of the world that the main character scientist so much hated (Since the death of his wife got him to become a randomness subscriber). I liked this brain teaser.

    Now, think about this, if “they” could dictate long lists of numbers to kids, how come “they” couldn’t pop up the same list, in a meaningful way, into the Apple computers at the scientists labs ??? hummm?? what kind of dumb ETs were these naked guys anyway?

    I didn’t like the lack of humanity at the end, the protagonist sees his friend with his wife very scared by his side, right there in the middle of the street, amid a ton of very crazy people. Mind you, he is ridding a very big truck, and he DOESN’T PICK THEM UP, what kind of friend was that? where is the humanity?. By the way, at the end, most people are behaving like crazy rioteers, according to this movie, only trained emergency workers know what to do in bad situations, the rest of us, become looters.

    He hurries up to his family, the father with whom he doesn’t talk for years, his dear mom, his sister (somehow she left her ‘very important’ nursing job) and then all four members of the family embrace to wait death. But only them, the rest are busy rioting. (Elitist b*******?).

    I didn’t quite lost the $8 bucks, there were some redeeming qualities to the plot, the choreography, the special effects, the acting, and the Apple computers all over the place (one would thing that the spaceships would have the Apple logo).

    I happen to like Nicolas Cage acting, although, if he keeps this kind of running around all over the place, I am going to stop watching his movies.

    I liked the photography, even though everyone seem dressed for a continuous funeral (I think the producer cut himself a deal on dark clothes for everyone) remember the NYC scenes? almost everyone was dressed in black. What? in NYC?, who do you take me for? … you can count with your fingers the number of people who wear black. And towards the end of the autum?. No wayyyy, people wear all kind of colors here.

    The special effects were amazing, I liked the sun flair shots, and the space ships, the one popping up from the sky (I wanted to go in it – take me!, take me!). And the scene of all the other space ships leaving us to our random destiny, to our inevitable, impeding doom…bastardos !!!

    I didn’t like the subway or train accidents, or the ladies car been hit by a truck, I think I have had enough with these kind of visual brutality.

    I would appreciate the day when the filmmakers go out of their way to nurture me, make me feel sublime, good about been alive in this wonderful universe of ours, good about been part of this evolving human race, good about maybe one day establishing contact with “intelligent” extra-terrestrials. Rather than scare the s*** out of me every second of the movie. That is why I don’t go to the movie theaters so often any more.

    If I want to be scared like that, I watch the stock market, not this stupid movies.

    When will the day come, when the movie industry will give us movies that inspire us?, When is the movie industry going to use the suspense, the special effects, the extra-terrestrials (and their amazing science) to give us this good feeling about been alive? hope for our future? charity for our brothers ? wouldn’t that sell? wouldn’t a movie like that go way out of the charts?

    With so much allusion about religion (the scenes with the biblical illustrations about the saint ascent to heaven), what about a constructive allusion to: “Faith, Hope and Charity” ? the underlined tenant of any religion.

    When is a well funded movie going to show that? so that we leave the theater fully empowered, hopeful, faithful and ready to do lots of charity?

  14. looking forward to this one!!!

  15. Vic. You have a really annoying job imo. Stop trying to play all the angles and evaluate a movie brother. I’m interested in what YOU think…NOT what you think others would think. I haven’t seen this movie yet and your review is pathetic at best. Try to be a little more yourself in an editorial REVIEW of a movie and not what you believe to be correct. You’ve changed stances too many times in your posts that it is difficult for me to discern how you really felt. Pick a point and stick with it bud. Have a good one.

  16. @jeff

    Sorry man, this is one film where my personal beliefs affected how I felt about it, and I know that not everyone feels the same – so I wanted to give a more rounded overview. Check my other reviews and you’ll find I’m much more straightforward.


  17. It seems that most people that gave it bad review were severely bugged by A) the religious overtones and B) the idea that everythign is predetermined. I’ll leave point A out for a second, but to also touch on what someone else here said: why is it that a movie isn’t worth seeing if it asserts a point against your beliefs? Is Knowing a bad movie because it doesn’t make you feel better when you go to sleep at night? It doesn’t tell you that you are king of your own life and everything is one big random accident?

    People are slamming this movie on ideology. Ridiculous.

  18. One more thought. The ‘stalkers’ were not hard to believe at all!! I see that point in so many blogs. These ‘what-evers’ knew the earth was toast and would ‘rescue’ a few children (the ARK story ok…) and take to another planet similar to earth to save us poor earthlings.. cool right? because without that hitch in the story we had no escape… all movies should try and give hope, the little lift from the darkside of things… nice touch. This movie has suspense, graphics, intrigue, and a SCI FI story (Sci Fi stories are that! They don’t have to be accurate or even possible ‘hence the name Science FICTION!)

  19. what i don’t get is… how can ANYBODY think this movie was anything but awful. yes, it started out looking good. but relatively quickly turned into bad… with the audience laughing and commenting out loud and no one caring about the added sound track. and i love cage, he’s one of my fav actors. this was not worth the time, money or production costs.

  20. Well, I enjoyed the film and I am a Christian. I’m going to put ***** SPOILER ALERT ***** here just in case.

    You can’t ignore the religious implications of the writer’s intent. The code wasn’t as elaborate as the Biblical code but it was interesting. Many have been saving the tree at the end was the Tree of Knowledge; that’s not what I thought. I thought it was the Tree of Life. For me, the whole movie was about the ending events in Revelation (the “whispers” being the mark of God (innocence), the aliens being angels, fire from the sky). I suppose the rocks could have just been a way for the person to know if they were in the right place.

    I can see how a Christian could have problems with this movie. But just like I saw DaVinci Code as pure fiction, I looked at this movie in the same light.

  21. You know, all of this talk about the movie predicting the future and all of that, we are forgetting what’s really important here. According to a lot of archeologists, the year 2012 is pointed out by many ancient cultures as the end of their calendars, some say this is predicting the end of the world.

    Do you guys know what that means? That means we might not ever get to see The Avengers on the big screen! :-0

  22. The movie was really interesting. it definitly kept me interested. the only part that drives me nuts is that it seems that the writer had a block and didn’t know how to end the movie. the whole extra terrestrial/alien endings are really annoying. i got up during the latest indiana jones movie at the end because the alien part is just rude and inconsiderate, where is the imagination! at least come up with somthing interesting to see.

    it seems like so many movies now are brought to a sudden end where all we see is alien encounters. with independence day, the aliens weren’t so AHHHH!(angels of the heavens singing). i believe that more though could have been brought into this movie.

  23. Ken J, bite your tongue! I have decreed that the world will not come to an end until I have seen the Avengers movie. :-)

  24. Man, this movie had me laughing from the start. First of all what a nice plot, eh?

  25. Kahless, I don’t know if I have a serious problem, but everytime anyone talks about the world ending in 2012, the thing that always pops in my head is not getting to watch The Avengers… As if that’ll be the most important issue at the time, but that’s what I think of, lol.

  26. @Ken J
    I think we are the normal ones and the rest of the 6 billion people on the planet are crazy. 8-)

    Could you be more specific? What was soo laughable about it? Please put **** SPOILER ALERT **** before your comment if you give away spoilers.

  27. Just saw it. I liked it, I thought the emotions where well rendered by the cast. I actually found it touching, as a father I could totally relate to cage’s character’s .
    The end satisfied me. it’s funny that some saw it as either religious or atheist.. if you look at the aliens closely they have diaphanous “wings”…
    I did love the fact that the world ends with something totally random as the cause and not global warming/al qeida etc..

  28. Outstanding review, I agree completely.