Honestly, the only reason I saw this film was because of Roger Ebert’s four star review, and his boasting of the film as “one of the very best science fiction films I’ve ever seen.” Having read that, it can’t be that bad, right?
Well, yes and no. While Knowing isn’t as awful as some of Nicolas Cage’s recent films (Bangkok Dangerous, Next or The Wicker Man?), it doesn’t stand out among great films of the genre either.
Fifty years ago, students from an elementary school were asked to make a drawing that will be put into a time capsule and opened five decades later. One creepy little girl scribbles numbers on her piece of paper. Fifty years later the capsule is unveiled and each student gets one piece of paper. Nicolas Cage’s son just happens to get the numbered paper. Coincidence?
That will prove to be the entire point of the film. Do things happen for a reason (determinism) or does “shit just happen” as Cage says to his MIT pupils. It doesn’t take long for Cage to find a pattern in the numbers that relates to 9/11 and in one long night he manages to pick apart every number on the sheet. Basically, each set of numbers describes a major disaster in the world over the past 50 years. The date first, then the amount of people that died. Problem is, a few sets predict that there are some more disasters to come.
It’s a gimmicky concept, one that I was willing to go along with. And as things started to get stranger with the appearance of several trench coat wearing, blonde haired, pale skinned, creepers in the night, I was kind of digging it. Then come the effects. We get to witness two very cool, very awesome disaster sequences (one involving a plane, the other a metro car) that are incredibly thrilling. Director Alex Proyas uses long, albeit CGI, camera shots to show the aftermath of brutality. It pays off.
The main problem here is Cage. When you look at his career, it’s astonishing how many times he’s gone up and down. He delivered a revelatory, Oscar winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas which remains the most accurate portrayal of alcoholism I’ve seen in film. We’ve seen him brilliant in a duel role in Adaptation., good in Matchstick Men, The Weather Man, and World Trade Center, decent in some earlier action roles like The Rock and Face/Off, then just downright awful in his latest slew of action garbage. It appears he likes to cash big checks more than delivering solid performances. His role in this film is extremely unconvincing (very poor written dialogue doesn’t help), but even the likes of Rose Byrne (a terrific, underrated actress) can’t step Cage’s game up.
So, is Knowing worth seeing? Sure. The concept is decent, the action sequences are badass, and I promise you’ll enjoy the end. One of the last shots in the film is a sweeping view of New York City as you’ve never seen. It’s worth the price of admission. B-
Note: One of Cage’s next roles is in Werner Herzog’s new film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and I’m rooting for a good Cage performance, I really am.