Knowing IS better – Knowing review

Knowing – Starring Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne and Chandler Canterbury. Directed by Alex Proyas. Rated M for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief coarse language. 121 mins.

Alex Proyas’ Knowing is a far braver and more intelligent film than many will give it credit for. It deals with that eternal, unanswerable question – do we really have free will or is the universe pre-determined? Do our actions alter the events of the future, or have all our decisions already been planned by some higher power? It’s a question that creates implications of gargantuan religious and scientific proportions. And no, the new Nicolas Cage film doesn’t answer it. However, Knowing is one of the most entertaining, and dare I say it, thought provoking sci-fi films of recent years.

Cage stars as astrophysicist John Koestler, a widower who has made peace with the seeming randomness of the universe. His son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) is too young to have any definitive cosmic beliefs, but is willing to accept that anything is possible. At the 50th anniversary of Caleb’s school, a time capsule is lifted from the ground, and the contents are distributed amongst the students. Caleb is given a sheet of paper filled with numbers, furiously handwritten in no apparent order by a young girl fifty years earlier. John spots a pattern – the date of a specific disaster, followed by the number of people killed, and finally the exact coordinates of the event.

He obsessively checks every number, and every major catastrophe of the past fifty years is accounted for. His scientist friend (Ben Mendelsohn) reminds him that numerological patterns can be found in almost anything. He makes a good point, although in this film, it falls on deaf ears. With three disasters supposedly still to occur, Koestler finds himself questioning his ability to change the inevitable, and also his place in the universe. Wait, just three disasters left? Just as the film’s tagline says, what happens when the numbers run out?

While Cage hasn’t been the most reliable actor in recent years, he has always been a likable one. The acting in the film is uniformly bad, but Cage manages to provide a captivating anchor in a story that is much larger than any one man. Rose Byrne is tremendously unbelievable as the granddaughter of the girl who originally wrote the numbers, and the child actors are unfortunately, pretty unconvincing. What keeps Knowing from falling into Wicker Man territory however is the phenomenal direction by Alex Proyas. Although he doesn’t quite have a handle on his actors, his visual eye is extraordinary. Knowing features what is possibly the best ever plane crash in film history and Proyas captures it all in one 3-minute take on hand held camera. There are two other major set-pieces that are equally jaw-dropping. A film that only cost $50 million to make should not look this amazing.

The storytelling is also masterful, with breadcrumbs of the shocking finale littered throughout the film. Knowing manages to be intriguing, and constantly surprising – which is probably as ironic a film about predestination can be. Therefore it’s such a shame that the film’s ending will probably send most viewers out of the cinema in either tears of laughter, or furrowed brows of incredulity. Neither are deserved. The film is a puzzle, and not necessarily a solvable one. Why should every movie have to be completely understood by the time the credits roll? Part of the fun is talking it out in the car ride home; attempting to wrap your head around the film’s ideas, and where that sits amongst your own beliefs. I’m three days into my analysis of Knowing, and I’m still figuring it out. And I love that I haven’t quite yet.

Yes, I am fully aware that Knowing has been completely drubbed by critics around the world. It currently holds a depressing 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I have a feeling that a lot of that hate is based on the film’s ending. Despite what the trailer may imply, Knowing is a science-fiction film, and easily one of the most provocative made of late. If you’re not one to have an open-mind, than any sci-fi can seem ridiculous. A film that can stimulate my mind to the point that I cannot think of anything else is worthy of praise. The acting may be a problem, but some films are so special they deserve a pass here and there. Knowing is about faith; the belief that one day the mysteries of the universe will be explained to us, and the knowledge that anything is possible.

4.5/5

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4 Responses to “Knowing IS better – Knowing review”

  1. I didn't mind the film, but I went into it with very low expectations based on the roasting it has copped around the globe.I thought the acting of Rose & Nic held up, but the child actors were absolutely abysmal.I did, however, admire Proyas' brave move in casting German electronic act Kraftwerk in the film.The religious overtones in the third act, plus the seemingly tacked on very final pre-credit scene (of which I am sure was filmed after a negative test screening) dragged it down a bit for me.Still, not a bad example of cheesy fun and I could think of a worse way to whittle away an afternoon (17 Again).ZZ

  2. @ ZZ”I did, however, admire Proyas’ brave move in casting German electronic act Kraftwerk in the film.”haha, brilliant. I personally thought they were a bunch of Spike impersonators who got lost on the way to a Buffy convention.ALSO, if there is anyone out there who would like to give their own mini review of Knowing just as ZZ has, please feel free to comment on your interpretations of the film here! We’d love to know what you thought of Knowing.

  3. Knowing is great entertainment even though I find the underlying tone incredibly depressive and defeatist. If the future has been (literally) written, down to the precise location and number of casualty, what is the point of doing anything if we are powerless to escape or make any difference?

  4. Hi PatrickI think that’s a very astute observation.As for depressing, I certainly think the film can be seen that way. However, there is something so fascinating about a movie in which a man has to come to terms with the fact that he CANT do anything; and that the universe is so vast and almost impossible to understand that he must rely on faith alone to “know” that everything will be alright.SPOILERS FOR KNOWING:Koestler cannot stop the Armageddon – but he puts his faith in the universe (and I suppose his version of God) to save him instead.The reading of this film depends on your own religious/scientific beliefs. But regardless of where you stand, you have to love a film that generates really thought provoking discussion.I recommend Contact, The Fountain and Signs to anyone who enjoyed Knowing. Does anyone have any thoughts on those films?

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