Friday, July 17, 2009


Knowing (B) is a goofy, preposterous, and entertaining sci-fi thriller that's nowhere near as bad as most critics said it was. It's also not the 4-star masterpiece that Roger Ebert hailed it as either. Stylishly directed (on a smaller than normal budget for the genre) by Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City), it's got a lot of great ideas, some nasty scenes of CGI-enhanced destruction, and a real doozy of an ending. It's far from perfect, but when it gets going, Knowing is a tense, intricate, and fairly heady concoction of end-of-the-world paranoia and religious-based scientific conjecture. Nicolas Cage stars as an M.I.T. professor who drinks too much and has a son to look after since the death of his wife. The son of a pastor, Cage's character doesn't believe in God, and views life through a scientific lens. However, when a time capsule is unearthed at his son's elementary school, and a shocking list of numbers is pulled from it, everything starts to get wacky. The numbers appear to correspond to various deadly tragedies over the last 50 years. And wouldn't you know it, but the last three tragedies are set to occur rapidly, with the final omen being a rather large one. Add in some mysterious and shadowy figures who appear at random times, some silky-smooth black rocks that may or may not be some sort of key, and some vividly depicted moments of destruction (a plane crash sequence shot in one, bravura take with Cage running through the burning wreckage is almost too intensely detailed), and Knowing builds to a wild finale that's surprisingly downbeat. Recycling some themes and motifs from his best film, Dark City, Proyas is most definitely a gifted movie-maker. His previous effort, I, Robot, was decent summer sci-fi, but Knowing is closer in spirit to Dark City, and while it's not as good, Proyas reminds you that it's nice to have some ideas and thought mixed into all of the action and pyrotechnics. It's not a great movie, but it's good enough, somewhat thought-provoking, and worth checking out.


Joel said...

I actually did find it a great film. Thought it would be a Day After Tomorrow, but I guess I shouldn't have underestimated Proyas, because it's sci-fi all the way. That it was Cage's best performance since at least World Trade Center (maybe since Matchstick Men) goes without saying. And what an ending.

Actionman said...

Knowing suffered from a few things -- poor performances from the child actors, a limited SFX budget (some of the shots looked too fake and video-game cheesy), a few terrible lines of dialogue, and some momentary lapses in logic.

I still enjoyed most of it, especially the ending. Proyas knows how to balance his visuals with a good story, and Knowing had a better plot than I ever expected it to have.

And I agree...this was one of Cage's better performances of late. His work in WTC and Matchstick Men are two of his very best, though. When he wants to do stellar work, he really does bring his A-game.

Joel said...

Like in Bringing Out the Dead or Leaving Las Vegas. I thought this was as accomplished as those, because he brought an incredible humanity to the character that I didn't expect.

Oh, unrelated, but check my site for a review of Harry Potter 6. I know you aren't a huge fan of the series, but I'm hoping to gain the series some fans, you know? I think you'll find it's a remarkable series if you give it more of a chance. The books are amazing.

Actionman said...

I saw the first 4 Potter movies. Really liked the 3rd one and enjoyed the 4th. Thought the first two were OK. I just don't have a ton of interest. I'll catch up with the ones I've missed theatrically on DVD.

And yes, Leaving Las Vegas and Brining out the Dead are two more movies with great Cage perfs. Add to that list his work in Adaptation (brilliant movie).