Review by Paul Stathakis | May 11, 2009

‘I know what you wrote 50 summers ago’

I have no problem sitting through disaster movies. There have been many:  “Volcano” (1997), “Armaggedon” (1998), “Deep Impact” (1998), “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), and more recently, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008).  But what I have troubles dealing with is when the film becomes less entertaining and more upsetting, when it relies exclusively on graphic scenes to shock instead of surprising viewers with a clever idea. And “Knowing” is entirely composed of harrowing scenes: a plane crash that looks real with people then emerging from the crash, screaming for help while on fire or a scene involving a subway accident and people being crushed flat. Oh, and not to mention, a moment where caribous are running through fiery forests…on fire. Add to these scenes a very loud soundtrack of music and shrieks and you get the full picture. “Knowing” is an assault on the human brain and ears.

Nicolas Cage stars as John Koestler, a science professor and single father with a bad drinking problem. Is he drinking to forget something buried deep in his past or does he suffer from a deep addiction to alcohol?

His son is Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), a rather curious elementary student. His school is holding a special day and students are excited. After a lengthy 50-year span, a teacher will have the honor of opening a time capsule that has been dug up at the elementary school. Scattered amongst students’ drawings, the capsule contains some chilling predictions. Caleb returns home with a sheet filled with numbers. “Maybe it means something”, wonders Caleb but his dad isn’t at all convinced until he later gives it a second closer look and discovers a harrowing pattern that can spell doom. What does the letter reveal? Many will be able to deduce the mystery simply by watching the trailer. But for those who are not aware, I will not reveal a thing.

What follows is an hour and a half of car chases, mysterious characters, a ton of denials from sub-characters, and the emergence of a charming female sidekick, Rose (Diana Wayland) and her daughter, Abby (Lara Robinson). The film, directed by Alex Proyas, does not touch on the originality of his previous endeavors, which include “The Crow” (1994) and “DarkCity” (1998). Instead, viewers are subjected to a science-fiction adventure that asks questions but doesn’t bother providing any answers. Aside from the solid special effects work, the film is exaggeratingly loud and graphic and it tries to tidy things with a shocking Shyamalanesque ending that will ultimately leave many viewers unsatisfied. The cast members deliver decent performances and, for the most part, they are what keep the film together. Cage is a versatile actor and he’s come a long way since “Vampire’s Kiss” (1988) but the story overshadows his performance and the rest of the cast. As a result, the film fails to spark any interest because of illogical plot holes and an absurd finale. Not worth knowing.

 

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