M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe.M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe.M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe.
Cage plays a physics professor at MIT, named John Koestler, who teaches students about the notion of determinism, i.e. the theory that everything is part of a precise, already established plan. The irony is that he doesn't believe any of that stuff since his wife died in a tragic accident, leaving him alone with his young son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). One day, something special occurs at Caleb's school: a time capsule, which was buried fifty years earlier, is unearthed so that the new generation can see what kids thought the future would look like back then. Instead of a drawing, Caleb ends up with a page containing a bizarre sequence of numbers. John takes a look at the sequence, and quickly (?) realizes that the numbers represent the dates and body count of every major disaster of the last five decades, including 9/11, Katrina and - big surprise - the death of the missus. Three of the predictions, however, have yet to come true, so John must find a way to prevent them from happening. Additionally, he has to deal with a group of weird-looking people who are interested in Caleb.
If it all sounds a bit familiar, that's because it is: while the story develops on its own terms, the premise alone, coupled with the creepy atmosphere, could come from an episode of The X-Files. In case the similarities weren't clear enough, the writers have even replicated the Mulder-Scully dynamic in the shape of John and his reluctant partner Diana (Rose Byrne) and added the inevitable religious subtext, which is hinted at from the very beginning (John's dad is a preacher). Also, the Strangers look kind of... In short, it's the sense of déjà vu that brings down most of Knowing: the third act is very easy to guess, the father/son relationship is sketchy, yada yada yada.
And yet Proyas manages to get some things admirably right: the tension is actually pretty consistent, with a few professionally delivered jump-scares along the way, and the visual effects are state-of-the-art, most notably in the impressive central set-piece which - a true stroke of genius, this one - is depicted in a single, continuous shot. Additionally, Cage's performance is one of his most convincing in quite some time. Okay, so it's not that difficult given his recent body of work includes the likes of The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider and Next, but his portrayal of a man who questions his beliefs (there we go again) adds some emotional weight to the picture. And that's without mentioning the refreshingly merciless conclusion...
Knowing is nothing new, meaning that the few unexpected elements it contains are rapidly sidelined by textbook scripting. Still, even on an off-day Proyas manages to pull off a collection of oddly compelling images (Cage's hair not included). Not quite enough, but we already sort of knew that, right?
- Jul 11, 2009