Cole Haddon March 20, 2009
When a time capsule is opened on an elementary school’s 50th anniversary, in it is found a numbers-covered sheet of paper that turns out to be coded predictions of almost every major event that cost substantial loss of life since it was written. Three predictions remain, which becomes the task of astrophysicist, widower, and, consequently, atheistic convert John Koesler (Nicolas Cage) to prevent — or at least try to. His son, who was the recipient of the letter when it was extracted from the time capsule, also seems to carry the same gift for prognostication that the author of the code did before she, as an adult, took her own life. This is the concept behind Knowing and, I have to say, it’s a good one. One of the better concepts I’ve encountered in the past year or so, too, so I obviously had high hopes for the movie when I sat down to screen it.
The Good …
That concept I mentioned, for one. It certainly lends itself to the perfect action formula: start with a great idea, add clearly defined tasks, deliver satisfying resolution. Hell, even Hercules knew this when he set out to complete his twelve labors.
Knowing also enjoys two outstanding action sequences that are arguably worth the price of admission. The first, a plane crash, is thrilling enough when it begins since, well, I like FX-laden cinematic carnage, I admit it. But, as conceived by director Alex Proyas, it quickly deteriorates into surprisingly terrifying horror. The second, a subway train crash, continues to escalate — or is that “degrade”? — the same way. One begins excited by the sight of a derailing train, the close calls, the flying shrapnel — but it doesn’t stop there. That train keeps plowing through the crowd, and I mean plowing. Bodies explode against the windshield like bugs. The result is just as jarring as the plane crash aftermath, with victims staggering about covered in white dust a la 9/11 as emergency teams arrive.
And finally, for astronomy dorks out there, Koesler and his son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), reference the Drake Equation in their opening scene together. It’s a small thing, but I appreciated that the screenwriters, all three of them, went there.
The Bad …
Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne. First, Cage doesn’t even bother with a performance here. And by that, I mean he doesn’t even bother playing Nicolas Cage the Wackily Eccentric Dude he does in every other movie he appears in. A waxwork of Nicolas Cage being wacky has more life than he brought to this role. Byrne, as the daughter of the girl who wrote the code, is almost as bad. If you’ve ever seen Byrne act, she basically plays a drowsy girl. Perhaps even a heavily medicated one. Who knows? Point is, she’s sleepwalking here.
Next up, the spooky-looking dudes that lurk in the forest around the Koesler’s farmhouse. They all look like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer but without the charm. In the middle of what seems like a sci-fi movie with religious overtones, these pigment-challenged “whisperers” who obviously have some connection to Caleb keep showing up like supernatural horror movie extras.
The Ugly …
The twist of the movie, what explains the Bible, the code, the Spike clones, and maybe even the Madea movies (okay, not that last one), is so damn laughable that it makes the ending of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seem brilliant by comparison. Despite the concept, despite the relatively solid and even exciting first half, the last fifteen minutes of Knowing left me squirming in my seat. Seriously. The guy next to me gave me several dirty looks because I couldn’t stop moving around, but that’s what I do when I feel embarrassed. Embarrassed for the human race, that it could produce something this stupid.
Then again, maybe that’s why you should buy a ticket. To finally confront how far our race has devolved in the last 100 years.
Grade: D (and not an F, but only because the good really is
Categories: ReviewsTags: Knowing review, Nicolas cage