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Knowing Movie Poster

2009 Nicolas Cage Sci-Fi Film

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What the bleep do we really know?

  • Aug 2, 2009
  • by
This movie deserves to be more widely known (pun intended). While exploring apocalyptic themes is a sure way to attract attention to a movie, most suffer from what I call the fallacy of intrinsic compelling-ness: writers and producers seem to think that just because the theme or plot is apocalyptic, people will be interested even if the story doesn't make sense, the characters are wooden or engagement with ideas is superficial and cliched. Fortunately Alex Proyas' new movie largely avoids that problem and is an engrossing, smart, visually stunning end-of-the-world caper. Roland Emmerich, eat your heart out.

Nicholas Cage plays professor John Koestler (probably named after the famous philosopher and historian Arthur Koestler), a single parent who has had a crisis of faith after the sudden death of his wife and is estranged from his father, who is a pastor. At the beginning of the movie he is a skeptic, whose philosophy of life can be summed up as 'shit just happens'! All that changes when a time capsule buried 50 years ago is dug up from under his son's school and he comes upon one of the letters, simply a series of numbers scrawled across the whole page. Koestler eventually realizes that in these numbers are encoded every major disaster over the past 50 years...with a few still unrealized. In the meantime, strange people have begun to lurk around his house and seem especially interested in his son...

To give more away would undermine the experience. Suffice it to say that, unlike Shyamalan's "Signs" with its cop-out ending, "Knowing" delivers the goods with some of the best, most beautiful FX sequences I've seen in recent movies. Not since "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" have I experienced such sheer, goosebump-triggering awe at the climactic scenes. The cinematography throughout is original and striking. What really makes this one stand out, however, is its sensitivity to the broader philosophical and religious issues raised by the end of the world. Is there a purpose to the Universe, or are we just the result of a random sequence of events with no broader significance? People have been debating this question for thousands of years and it's unlikely the discussion will be ending anytime soon. The movie itself does not lean in one direction or the other, but to say more again would be spoiling it. I will say that for a big studio picture the ending is very unusual and very brave.

All the actors and actresses do a solid job. Nic Cage is as usual intense but likeable and redeems himself after that awful "Wickerman" remake. Rose Byrne is convincing as the daughter of the girl who originally wrote the letter and who was haunted by the mysterious 'whisper-people'.

There are a few weaknesses in both the plot and the characterization. For a skeptical guy Koestler sure plunges with gusto into trying to decipher the numbers on the letters. His estranged father is introduced quite awkwardly and suddenly towards the end. His friend and sister remain little more than wooden cut-outs. And despite the generally sensitive and reflective way in which the themes are handled, some of the in-movie discussion is very superficial. A classroom discussion on determinism vs. randomness is quite ridiculous and draws the wrong distinction between the two. Actually, they are not opposed. Everything that happens might be completely determined by prior events but the whole sequence might still be lacking in meaning.

Despite these minor shortcomings overall the movie is very entertaining and thought-provoking. The end of the world has rarely looked so good.

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August 05, 2009
That's interesting! Perhaps you would be interested in the review of Engine Summer, a post-apocalyptic book. Great review by the way!
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?
Quick Tip by . December 25, 2010
Someone must have said let's make a movie for the sake of special effects ~_~ but I don't want to spend alot
review by . July 12, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
   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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
J.D. Walters ()
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Member Since: Apr 23, 2009
Last Login: Nov 12, 2012 02:15 AM UTC
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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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