Rated PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne.
Written by Ryne Douglas Pearson, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White, Stuart Hazeldine, Alex Proyas.
Directed by Alex Proyas.
By Dan Metcalf
I should have seen this coming. Another Doomsday movie is hitting theaters this weekend, and I can't help but be a little excited about it, nor can I help but be a little suspicious that it won't end very nicely.
Knowing stars Nicolas Cage as a widowed MIT professor John Koestler, who is a single father to Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), a young boy who hears strange whispers. The movie begins in suburban Boston as school kids bury a time capsule at their new school in 1959. A little girl named Lucinda hears the whispers too, and those whispers are feeding a long string of numbers to her brain. Lucinda writes the numbers down in a letter that gets sealed inside the time capsule destined to be opened in 2009.
Flash forward to present-day, when Caleb is attending the same school as they celebrate the school's 50-year anniversary and pass out the contents of the time capsule to the contemporary students. In no surprise, Little Caleb gets Lucinda's numbers, and in a drunken stupor, his dad starts to analyze them. What John finds is a pattern of numbers that point directly to dates and death tolls of the worst disasters in the world's history since 1959. John's dilemma is there are some numbers left, and the dates are coming soon - one of them the very next day, when, according to the numbers, 81 people will die. Meanwhile some creepy men wearing black overcoats haunt Caleb, and seem to be stalking him.
John is a little skeptical, until the foretold disaster happens right before his eyes. I won't ruin the surprise, but I will say the special effects and drama of the scene may give me nightmares; the images are that disturbing. If you've seen the movie trailer, you'll know what I'm talking about.
After witnessing the death of 81 people, John becomes a true believer in the numbers and tries to stop the next disaster from happening. When he fails, John then tries to discover the origin of the numbers through Diana, the daughter of Lucinda, who killed herself in the woods of Massachusetts (supposedly because she figured out what the numbers mean, too). As Diana and her young daughter Abby (who also hears the whispers) join with John and Caleb, the group embarks on quest to find the final numbers, what they mean, and a way to survive what looks like the inevitable Doomsday.
Remember those creepy guys in the black overcoats? Yeah, they show up during the climactic end of the movie, offering a choice for the kids, and not much else for the rest of the world.
The first hour of Knowing is pretty intense, especially during the catastrophes, and those scenes of mass death are incredibly dramatic and disturbing. The special effects during those scenes are unfortunately the high point of the film.
I always find it fascinating how some characters in movies are portrayed as great thinkers with incredible intellects, yet when things get tough, they do the same stupid things most yuks would do, like buying a gun or saying crazy things to police that will get you arrested. Yup, you can have a PHD in physics, yet packing heat is the best solution to dealing with the end of the world.
Cage is fine as the lead role, but he doesn't act much better than he did in, say, National Treasure. Everybody else, including Rose Byrne, delivers adequate performances as well, but it's the slowing pace of the story around he middle of the movie that really keep Knowing from being an exceptional film. Some of the existential questions that come up in the convoluted ending might interest some, but the ham-fisted attempt at reconciling science, religion and conspiracy theory together prompts more eye-rolling than introspect. Knowing is a movie that tries really hard to be The Sixth Sense, but slouches into depressing and more pointless version of Armageddon.