Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Knowing

 
 
 

Review by Patrick Hodges

You’ve probably seen movies where someone predicts terrible things will happen, and they end up coming true.  Well, Knowing is one of those movies… kind of.  Nicolas Cage plays John Koestler, a professor of astrophysics at M.I.T., whose son Caleb comes into possession of a piece of paper, covered with numbers, that was written by a little girl and placed into a time capsule fifty years earlier.  Imagine his surprise when John discovers that the numbers indicate the exact date, location and fatality count of every major disaster in the past fifty years, with 100% accuracy.  But wait, it gets better… there are several “events” that haven’t happened yet.

What would you do if you knew a disaster was imminent?  Try to prevent it?  Or just assume that the event was inevitable no matter what you did?  Is it destiny, or just coincidence?  Wrestling with this philosophical nightmare, John goes to see Diana (Rose Byrne), the daughter of the little girl who wrote the numbers in the first place.  Incredulous at first, she soon begins to realize that there are some fates that can’t be avoided.

You’ve probably also seen many disaster movies, such as Armageddon, The Core, The Day After Tomorrow, and the like.  Well, Knowing is one of those movies as well… kind of.  I will say this… the visual effects of the plane and subway crashes that take place here (and that you may have seen in the trailers) are as real as any I’ve ever seen.  My hand was on my mouth the entire time during those scenes, they were THAT realistic.

I am a big fan of Knowing’s director Alex Proyas, who also directed the terrific but underrated Dark City in 1998 and the excellent Will Smith sci-fi vehicle I, Robot in 2004.  If there is one thing that ties all three movies together, it is a deep pessimism about humanity’s chances.  In Dark City, they were puppets, even slaves, of a mysterious alien race.  In I, Robot, they came a hair’s breadth from willfully handing control over to machines that they had created.  And in Knowing…

Well, I won’t go into detail about the OTHER kind of movie that Knowing is… kind of.  Suffice it to say, the change is almost completely incongruous with the first and second thirds of the movie.  All I will say is that it has to do with these mysterious, silent figures that appear to John, Caleb, Diana and her daughter Abby as the time ticks down to the final prediction on the paper, which indicates a disaster on a global scale.

That’s right, it starts as a mysterious thriller, shifts into fifth gear by turning into a full-on disaster flick, and finally drives of a cliff as a weird sci-fi movie that will just leave you scratching your head.  Which is a shame, because Nicolas Cage actually gives a very good performance here, much better than some of the dreck he’s been involved with in recent years.  Byrne, on the other hand, is unmemorable.

My advice:  if you see this film, do NOT take small children who frighten easily, as it contains several scenes with graphically disturbing images of carnage.  There’s no gore or anything like that, but it looks so real as to be the stuff of nightmares.  And if you are addicted to that happy ending?  Well, Dark City and I, Robot ended with tiny flickers of ambiguous hope, and Knowing does too, typical of Alex Proyas, who, I hope, continues to improve.  Would I recommend this film?  Yes… kind of.

3 / 5 stars

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