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Knowing Movie Poster

2009 Nicolas Cage Sci-Fi Film

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2 ½ Stars: Good Premise, Cool Concept, Great Tone But the Film Collapses Upon Itself!

  • Jul 12, 2009

Movies that have the premise of end times are a dime-a-dozen. There have been some successes and quite a few failures. I loved “Dark City” so when I heard that director Alex Proyas is at the helm of “KNOWING”, I was once again curious and made time to see it. The story is crafted by novelist Ryne Douglas Pearson and carries a thought-provoking idea that asks the viewer to ponder certain questions about our existence. Are all these things around us products of random events or are they part of some grand scheme?
59 years ago, several students at a local elementary school were asked to illustrate their vision of the future and the drawings will be put in a time capsule that will be opened 5 decades later. Fast-forward to the present day, the time capsule is finally unearthed. A mathematician from MIT named John Koestler (Nicholas Cage) and his son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) are coincidentally the recipients of a piece of paper with a lot numbers written by a young girl named Lucinda 50 years ago. Intrigued, John studies the numbers on the piece of paper and he determines that they are the dates of the both natural and unnatural disasters that have occurred in the past 50 years. John himself becomes obsessed as some events have began to occur; dates and number of deaths coincide with current events, event location, and he decides to try to make sense of it all as he enlists Lucinda‘s surviving next of kin Diana (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby (Lara Robinson) to his aid. Time is running out, as events predicted in the paper start to come true, John and Diana find themselves joined together to try to avert the end of the world. But what happens when such a thing cannot be avoided? They are also being stalked by certain shadowy figures…

                            A scene from "Knowing."

                           Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne in "Knowing."
The film does have a good concept that can spark the interest, and “Knowing” asks the questions as the film slowly unfolds. The film’s main strength come from its share of freaky images and quite frankly, there are some scenes that are definitely disquieting. The events of 9/11 prove to be the catalyst for our main protagonist to notice the significance of the numbers and it does have some true-to-life parallels such as Katrina, and other events of disaster. Director Alex Proyas establishes the needed tone for a film such as this, and after I saw the plane crash sequence, I rather wished that I would never witness a real-life plane crash in my life. It was rather surprising as to how this scenes managed to get pass its PG-13 rating. The film has its share of grand displays of special effects, and Proyas is no stranger to such an exercise. The scenes look quite good and nicely shot. Also, the film has several creepy scenes going for it; as with the search in a small rundown shack in the woods, Proyas displays his ala-”Dark City” atmosphere that nicely complements its mood and tone. Even the shadowy, pale-faced figures look very reminiscent to those of “Dark City”.

                     A scene from "Knowing."

                    A scene from "Knowing."
The questions in “Knowing” are abundant; are we products of random events or are we headed to an established future? What are the chances that an M.I.T. mathematician would stumble upon the cryptic numerical note? Are the events predicted by the written numbers meant as a warning so that future generations could avoid them or would events unfold naturally that one cannot avert disaster? Well, the film does manage to ask the questions but it doesn’t really answer them in either a philosophical or conventional manner, but I couldn’t deny the fact that the film’s concept does raise a good line of thought. Caleb’s and Abby’s significance, the goals of the shadowy “whisper people”, I guess the film does manage to answer its questions in its own way, but through no fault of its own, the film rather feels too superficial with its displays of special effects. I was a little disappointed as to how Proyas executed the film; the outrageous execution turned out to be a display of loud, elaborate style that the screenplay killed what little intrigue it created through its interesting concept.

                               A scene from "Knowing."

Rose Byrne and Nicolas Cage in "Knowing."  Lara Robinson in "Knowing."

                             Rose Byrne and Lara Robinson in "Knowing."
The film may feel somewhat like a chase film, only instead of our protagonists being pursued, they are on a race against time. It loses certain aspects of human drama in the face of Armageddon, and it feels more like a uniformed thriller that relies mostly on its visuals. While this isn’t exactly a bad thing, it does manage to keep me interested but it misses its potential by a mile. The film’s final act does have the ambition to provoke a reaction from its viewer, leaving for the viewer to come up with his conclusions. Curiously, the final scene felt a little too clichéd and light for a film supposedly portraying the drama of the end times.
The acting is somewhat of a mixed bag. I have respect for Nic Cage from his performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” and the underrated “Matchstick Men”--but this is not the Nic Cage from those movies; this is the Nic Cage from “Next” and “Wicker Man”. Cage isn’t a bad actor, but there are times that his performance doesn’t match the quality of his past roles; this is one of those times. Cage fulfills his scenes with such small zest that he almost feels as if he didn’t really care for the role. Chandler Canterbury does fulfill the needs of his role as a half-deaf, almost psychic son of the mathematician. Canterbury makes good use of what he had to work with. For some reason, Rose Byrne reminded me of Jennifer Connelly, too bad she didn’t get to shine in her role.
You may say that “Knowing” had an intriguing premise and a rather good first half, but somewhere along the way, I started to lose my interest as Proyas takes us to repetitive scenes of the ‘whisper people’, and other-worldly symbols. It had the right ideas but the execution becomes hampered by usual plot mechanics and the secret of the shadowy pale-faced figures felt like it had been re-written so many times that it didn‘t fit the tone of the film. It is the usual Hollywood mechanics at work, try a philosophical approach even if it doesn’t have the needed groundwork to pull it off. “Knowing” should have been really good, but instead it just borders on being forgettable.
Rent It. [2 ½+ Stars= mediocre to fair]
Poster Crash Diana and John whisper people Cage and Byrne

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July 12, 2009
This sounds interesting. Thanks for the review! Have you ever read the book The Bible Code? I've only read bits and pieces, but it claims that within the Bible are numbers, codes, sequences that predict the events of the future. It attempts to show that 9/11 and Katrina were part of Bible prophecy. Thought you might be interested in checking it out. It seems like it's less about "the end of times" and more about the discovery and unveiling of this secret code.  
July 12, 2009
You're welcome. I am very familiar with the Bible code as well as other theories about 2012. I haven't read the book but I have seen its show on the History Channel. I had hopes that this film was all about that, but it wasn't. This movie is good but collapses after the second half. thanks for the tip, I will check that out, Bethany.
July 14, 2009
Since the beginning every generation has been convinced the end of times is going to occur in its time. We're a very egocentric species. How many times has it been lately? There was the turn of the century, now its 2012. How have they managed to tie in the Mayan calendar with the Bible? I'm with Nostradamus though, what sense is there in knowing the future if it can't be changed? Where does free will enter into all of this? If man truly does have free will then how can future events be predicted thousands of years in advance?
July 15, 2009
Karen, I think the more mankind anticipates it, the more it gets pushed back. I think the future can indeed be changed. Have you seen that documentary about the actual "Crystal Skulls" (from Indiana Jones 4)? Quite interesting...
More Knowing reviews
review by . February 27, 2011
posted in SF Signal
I finally got around to watching this excuse for a Nicolas Cage film, courtesy of RedBox DVD rentals. It was my first time using Redbox as well, which experience was smoother and more professional than the movie presentation, but this being a blog about science fiction and not about automated retail merchandising, suffice it to say that Redbox was easy to use, simple to use, completely inexpensive (if it took real money instead of plastic, most kids could scrounge up the rental fee off the street …
Quick Tip by . December 25, 2010
posted in That's Beat
Worst movie ever. Nicholas cage has successfully ruined his career with horrible sci-fi nonsense. How does a movie like this get produced?
review by . December 26, 2009
Nicholas Cage stars in one of his better films as a widowed father who is raising a son (Kaleb).  On the 50th anniversary of a time capule at Kaleb's school, the time capsule is to be opened.  The audience got to see the time capsule being created in 1959 where the students were asked to draw pictures of what they thought the world would be like in 50 years.        One of the girls just put a series of what appeared to be random numbers.  This girl appeared …
review by . November 12, 2009
The end of the world is the most heated and talked about discussion in Human history. No one  knows when it will be and no one knows  what will happen, but  we all know in some way  that it's coming. Knowing gives us a very intelligent spin on  how  the world might end  through ideas from the last book of the bible Revelation that talk about  the end of the world and the second coming of God.  But  while it doesn't have a hundred percent  take …
review by . March 23, 2009
 "Knowing" ... where do I begin?    My girlfriend had wanted to see this movie after seeing many previews for it.  I figured I would give it a try because it couldn't be any worse than "The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)." Well ... it was close.    The movie begins in 1959 with a young girl (Lucinda) hearing whispers in her head. Her classmates are drawing pictures to place into a time capsule, while the voices force her to write down a long series …
review by . April 28, 2009
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Massachusetts schoolgirl foresees grim numbers for the future.   2. She tries to write them all down, but runs out of time before they get sealed in a time capsule.   3. Her numbers sit there until 2009 when the capsule is opened.   4. MIT Astrophysics professor and single parent (Nicolas Cage) happens upon them and starts unraveling their meaning.   5. So far, so good   6. He finally …
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Knowing is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Alex Proyas and starring Nicolas Cage. The project was originally attached to a number of directors under Columbia Pictures, but it was placed in turnaround and eventually picked up by Escape Artists. Production was financially backed by Summit Entertaiment. Knowing was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, using various locations to represent the film's setting, Boston. The film was released on March 20, 2009 in the United States and Canada.

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