Review by Jack Foley
NICOLAS Cage’s Knowing is the type of science fiction thriller that thrives on its intriguing premise. It’s undoubtedly exciting. But after spending the better part of two hours attempting to decipher its clues, knowing it’s answers may lead to a sense of overwhelming disappointment afterwards.
It’s not so much that Alex Proyas’ film doesn’t add up, but rather that its revelations are so absurd that they strain credibility to breaking point and beyond. Nevertheless, audiences may still find themselves begrudgingly admiring its audacity.
Kicking off in 1959, Knowing starts with a time capsule being buried at a school dedication ceremony which contains a haunted little girl’s vision of the future – namely, a page full of seemingly random numbers that have been whispered into her head by unseen voices.
Fifty years on [in 2009], the capsule is recovered and the girl’s message is handed to a young boy named Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), the son of astrophysics professor John Koestler (Cage). Reluctantly at first, John begins to look into the numbers and slowly uncovers a code that foretells every global disaster of the past 50 years.
Most worryingly, however, there are a few that have yet to happen – while the question of what happens once the sequence runs out becomes ever more pertinent.
Admittedly, there’s some fun to be had in taking the journey to discovery. Proyas – a veteran of sci-fi hits The Crow and I, Robot – creates a nice air of paranoia early on, imbues his film with a ’70s style conspiracy sensibility and throws in several well-orchestrated, if effects heavy, set pieces.
A plane crash (as featured in the trailer) is both harrowing and frighteningly real (in its aftermath), while a subway crash is technically assured. The numerous nods to real-life disasters as well as science fiction classics from the past will also reward the sharper eye.
But neither Proyas nor Cage can prevent the movie from spiralling out of control and into the utterly absurd. Without wanting to ruin the surprise, the direction that Knowing eventually takes requires a major suspension of disbelief even though elements of it are topical and “of the moment”.
Cage also seems slightly miscast in a role that would arguably have benefited from a lesser name, while Rose Byrne fails to convince as she becomes increasingly more hysterical. The kids are good, but err towards the precocious.
Proyas also fails to deliver the emotional clout he was doubtless seeking, by virtue of the extraordinary nature of the path his film takes.
Sci-fi fans may relish the fact that Proyas refuses to cop out entirely with the ending, while there’s a certain boldness to the overall concept… but it seems painfully naive for a film to dwell on contemporary concerns on the one hand for maximum fright value, and then drift into the utterly ridiculous the next.
As with a lot of movie experiences, knowing the outcome is often the most disappointing feeling of all.
Running time: 121mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 3, 2009
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Nicolas Cage interview
- Rose Byrne interview
- Knowing tops US box office
- View photos of the Knowing London publicity stunt