FILM REVIEW: Knowing

15 • 121 mins • 25 March

Director: Alex Proyas

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne,Chandler Canterbury, DG Maloney, Lara Robinson

Rating:

Knowing sees Nic Cage’s bereaved
academic deciphering a numerical
code that warns of upcoming
disasters. Unfortunately, it offers little
foresight of the calamity the last act
of the movie will descend into.

It all starts so well, as astrophysics
lecturer John Koestler (Cage)
stumbles on a sheet of paper buried
in a time capsule at his son’s school,
decorated with a seemingly random
succession of digits. Turns out the
troubled little girl who wrote them
heard voices telling her the dates
and death tolls of 50 years’ worth of
accidents. Of course, in the great
tradition of people in movies with
visions, Koestler struggles to make
anyone believe him – even when his
predictions turn out to be accurate.

This is a brilliant role for Cage,
who delivers a performance largely
free of the “watch me acting!” tics
that have been a regular feature of
his recent career. There’s something
rather Close Encounters about his
portrayal of a man who knows that
what he’s discovered goes against all
rational thought, yet feels utterly
compelled to follow it through to its
logical conclusion – even when he
doesn’t like what he finds.

Although some of the film’s early
beats are somewhat contrived
(Koestler discovers the code by
chance, when a glass stain
inadvertently circles 91101 –
September 11, 2001, geddit?), director
Alex Proyas builds a palpable,
creepy sense of doom. And he does
it with restraint, the man who
wheeled out the spectacular visuals
for Dark City and The Crow paring
them back everywhere except for a
few scenes of spectacular carnage.

Unfortunately, as so often
happens, the intriguing questions
asked by the first half of the movie
don’t get satisfactory answers from
the second. As soon as the numbers’
purpose is revealed, the script backs
itself into a corner it was never going
to get out of without some really
ingenious narrative gymnastics.
When they fail to materialise, we get
some heavy-handed religious
symbolism and a too neat ending
that leaves you screaming, “I can’t
believe they did that!” Sometimes
it’s nice when movies do things you
never saw coming. Knowing is an
exception.

Richard Edwards