Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Knowing (2009)

At a glance:
Knowing’s weird combination of end-of-the-world fatalism and religious salvation doesn’t mesh well, but it’s still a captivating and imaginative sci-fi outing, laced with a typical ‘detached passion’ performance by Nicolas Cage

Our review (with MAJOR spoilers):
Knowing starts off with one obvious goal: to break the record for saying a little girl’s name in a movie. Previously, this record was held by Poltergeist 3 with ‘Carole Anne’. Here, it is ‘Lucinda’ that gets repeated over and over and over. This Lucinda is special. She is being whispered to, haunted, by something or someone. We can assume it could be extraterrestrials, because her whispers coincide with drawings of the future done by schoolchildren in 1959 and buried in a time capsule (and because this film is in the sci-fi genre). While all the other kids draw pictures, Lucinda covers her page from top to bottom with neat rows of numbers. Later, she is discovered with her fingers bloody from the indecipherable message she is scraping on the wall of a closet.

Flash forward to 2009, where tormented, faith-free professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) raises his 12 year old son Caleb alone, because the mother died. John’s science does not allow him to believe in heaven, but he encourages Caleb to make his own choice about such things. The capsule is opened and the children’s drawings from ’59 are distributed to the children of ’09. Caleb hears those same whispers, receives Lucinda’s numbered page, and sees a mystery man in the distance who quickly disappears.

Dad takes a closer look at those numbers and soon cracks the code. They are a series of pair of dates and death tolls. Like 9/11/01 2996 (Sept 11, 2001 – 2996 deaths). He keeps going, then suddenly drops his glass of scotch when he realizes there are three more tragedies predicted that have not yet occurred. Further research reveals that the other, seemingly random numbers are the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of each event.

Knowing is in some ways completely successful in its redemption story. In counterpoint to Signs, the hero will not save the world, just his own soul. The world, or at least humanity, is saved by another means. The middling reviews for this film do puzzle me, however, I thought it was very good pulp sci-fi, and once Cage stops being so catatonic (admittedly, this takes about half the picture), it is even compelling emotionally. For a picture of this ilk, there are many quiet moments, punctuated effectively by stunning disasters – including the short but sweet cataclysmic finale.

Rating:  2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"The final message may be trite, even saccharine, but Knowing would be pretty well unbearable without it. Proyas has made a truly haunting and terrifying film."
- Evan Williams (The Australian)

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