Knowing – Review

As many ideas as a 400 level philosophy course and about as exciting

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Director: Alex Proyas
Notable Cast:
Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury

There’s a difference between Nic Cage, Will Smith, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Matt Damon, and virtually every other actor whose main body of work comprises action films and Jason Statham. Everyone else likes to dabble outside the genre. He doesn’t, as action films are his bread and butter. Thus, Cage can do a science fiction thriller like Knowingand has the luxury of doing another National Treasure sequel at his leisure as opposed to being on his front-burner. After the two hours of Knowing, perhaps another should be in order.

Cage stars as John Koestler, a professor of astrophysics at MIT. A widower, his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) and he share similar mental issues when it comes to the death of their mother. As they handle it, Caleb’s middle school is about to celebrate a momentous occasion. A time capsule, buried for 50 years, has been pulled out of the ground and Caleb gets a most interesting piece. Instead of pictures detailing what children in 1958 thought their future would look like, he gets a sheet of paper filled with what are seemingly random numbers. When his father decodes a pattern to it, seeing all the world’s major tragedies predicted decades in advance, it leads him to a stupefying conclusion that ends in a most depressing manner.

And Alex Proyas, known for making thought-provoking fair in the genre already with Dark City and his take on I, Robot, has a film that raises a lot of questions and gives less answers. For all the talk of determinism vs. randomness the film could generate, or speculate on, the film itself is rather weak in answering questions like “Can Nic Cage make an interesting film again?”

In terms of making thought provoking material, Proyas is surprisingly weak this time around. He has such an abundance of material to work with and doesn’t do much with it. The film aims to be a camp thriller, right down to the marginal acting, but has enough seriousness to it that its tone is a bit askew. It’s surprising from a director like Proyas, who has a track record of being able to keep a tone and intensity, but his trademark ability to throw in incredible visuals is evident. He throws in spectacular visuals, including a two minute take without cuts midway through the film that is so impressive that it is jaw-dropping, and his ability to put the film together is something to behold.

But it’s in the story-telling where he loses his mark. This could be a fascinating thriller about coming to grips with the end of existence, but this isn’t that kind of film. It could be a terrific thriller invoking religious imagery, of which the film provides the latter but not the former.

Another way the film falls apart is that it features Nicolas Cage in an acting role that leaves him between his two main character types: tough guy action hero and a lovable yet quirky oddball. His character resembles both without effectively being either. It makes for a distracted actor, it seems, as Cage seems to out of his zone for the length of the film. This isn’t a character in his wheelhouse of ability and talents; he’s believable in the role but isn’t very good at it, unfortunately.

It leaves Knowing in the same place that a lot of contemporary science fiction holds: thought-provoking in its concepts but mind-numbing in its execution.


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