If you have confused 2009's Knowing with 2007's Next, you are not alone. Both movies have obscure, dull titles, star Nicolas Cage and feature his character predicting a cataclysmic event in the near future. Both also looked like forgettable B-grade action thrillers. Thankfully, looks can be deceiving.
Knowing is about a professor and single father named John Koestler whose son Caleb receives an envelope recovered from a time capsule that was planted at his elementary school fifty years earlier. While most of the children receive drawings, Caleb gets a piece of paper covered with numbers - numbers that John soon begins to suspect have predicted every major disaster in the world for the last half century. More startling is the revelation that only a few more dates exist... what happens when they run out?
Low expectations were the name of the game for Knowing. The movie looked like fun, but also looked like a bunch of other unremarkable Nicolas Cage films that have been released over the last decade. The previews highlighted the basic premise and some disaster sequences showing some so-so special effects. All in all, Knowing looked like a mindless popcorn flick.
Knowing is a pleasant surprise, however. The movie is directed by Alex Proyas, the man behind one of the best sci-fi thrillers of all time, Dark City. It was probably ridiculous of me to expect that Proyas, who also directed The Crow and I, Robot, would resort to doing such a simplistic disaster film - in fact, I know it was. Knowing is not a simple disaster flick as most people would expect; there is another layer to the picture that smartly remained hidden during its marketing run. This additional layer, while not perfect, elevates Knowing to an unexpected level. When this new subplot is revealed partway through, it suddenly becomes clear that Knowing is not just another generic disaster film but an authentic sci-fi thriller.
Regardless, Knowing is entertaining and fast paced. While Nicolas Cage isn't anything spectacular here, the characters are likable, the disaster scenes intense and the overall movie exciting - and oddly spooky. While Knowing lacks the visual atmosphere of Dark City, it still looks and feels more like something Proyas would make than, say, a Roland Emmerich picture.
Still, the picture isn't perfect. Cage's character jumps to the revelation of the numbers rather quickly, which helps the movie get to the point but isn't particularly convincing, either. The special effects get better as they go along, but are pretty poor for much of the film; they aren't distractingly bad, but it's clear why this movie was released in March and not in the summer months. Also, not everyone will like the aforementioned additional layer to the story, though that's their problem, not mine. My least favorite moment is actually the last scene before the end credits. Proyas finishes things so well a minute earlier it was disappointing to see that he tacked this last shot on; it's unnecessary in every way and form and feels a bit cheap.
Knowing isn't perfect, but Proyas has created another strong entry in the sci-fi genre. This one won't win any awards, but it's a surprisingly entertaining film that should satisfy sci-fi fans and disaster buffs alike.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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