Fifty years ago, the students of a small Massachusetts school buried a time capsule filled with their drawings of the future. In 2009, it's opened, and what's inside will change the fate of MIT Professor John Koestler (Cage), his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), and the actual world as we know it. Seems the boy gets a weird list of numbers, scribbled by a troubled child five decades ago. Now, Koestler sees a pattern in the randomness -- they appear to be predicting cataclysmic events, providing the date and the actual number of casualties. Luckily, most of the tragedies have already occurred. Unfortunately, there are three remaining. With the help of Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby (Lara Robinson), our hero will try to understand the omens before life as we "know" it no longer exists.
Knowing, while not without its faults, is a fascinating and brave entertainment. You haven't seen doom and gloom like this since Michael Tolkin delivered the actual Rapture. Proyas reconnects with his muse in a way that's quite wonderful throughout. The three main set-pieces -- a horrific plane crash, an equally brutal subway smash-up, and the frightening finale -- are all so skillfully rendered, so startling in their cinematic audacity that it's hard to imagine a studio giving them the greenlight. With an equally strong sonic backdrop to add to the chaos, these scenes play like newsreel footage filled out with actual visions of real-life death and destruction. For these moments alone, Knowing is worth your time.
Even Cage can't countermand Proyas' ability behind the lens. While much better here than in other recent paycheck parts (Bangkok Dangerous, Next), there are times when he feels out of sync with the rest of the movie. He's even upstaged by child actor Canterbury some of the time. But as the story moves along, as his character learns more and more about the fateful list, Cage comes around. He seems more comfortable in the reactive role, not having to put on the faux-heroics that the early parts of the film require. Proyas even helps out by keeping the cast small and insular.
Of course, there's a caveat. You can't make far-thinking, big-budget speculative spectacle without it. During the last 15 minutes, Knowing takes a turn so unique, so baffling in its believability yet obvious in its setup that you either go with it, or you don't. Your reaction to this plot point will be the make-or-break moment for you and this film. Buy it, and you're in for something wholly satisfying and special. Don't and you'll be twiddling your thumbs in Spielberg/War of the Worlds disbelief. Given all that's come before -- and it's some amazing moviemaking stuff -- it's a big risk for Proyas and his picture. Indeed, if the film's a hit, it will be the water cooler moment for the next few weeks.
Frankly, all of Knowing feels daring and deliberate, as if Proyas wanted to purposely undermine the expectations of the standard popcorn pandering. That it succeeds so well shows what this unsung artform hero is really made of.
He also knows what you did last summer.
Run time: 121 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th March 2009
Box Office USA: $79.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $155.4M
Distributed by: Summit Entertainment
Production compaines: Summit Entertainment, Escape Artists, Mystery Clock Cinema, Goldcrest Pictures, Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment, Wintergreen Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 59 Rotten: 119
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage as John Koestler, Rose Byrne as Diana Wayland, Chandler Canterbury as Caleb Koestler, Ben Mendelsohn as Phil Bergman, Nadia Townsend as Grace Koestler, D.G. Maloney as The Stranger, Lara Robinson as Lucinda Embry / Abby Wayland, Alan Hopgood as Rev. Koestler, Adrienne Pickering as Allison, Joshua Long as Younger Caleb, Alethea McGrath as Miss Taylor (2009), Danielle Carter as Miss Taylor (1959), Tamara Donnellan as Lucinda's Mother, Travis Waite as Lucinda's Father
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