Posted on 4/03/10 10:53 PM
2 Stars out of 5
The cultivation of the sci-fi paradigm has been a series of mixed results. Are aliens good or are they bad? Sometimes we get aliens when we least suspect them (courtesy the fourth Indiana Jones). Either way, we get it: there are forces beyond our control and at the end of the day, we are all screwed. Knowing is just another reminder of this amalgamation of carnage. It's even more existentially ridden than The Number 23, slightly better, but equally absurd. These films can keep telling me two plus two is five, but at the end of it all, I'll still roll on the floor laughing. Even with the fine Nicolas Cage is portraying an overly eager, alcoholic professor, Knowing still recedes to tedium and absurd allegory. It won't take long for you to give up on this tried and failed mind trip.
The contest between determinism and 'randomism' is a finicky aspect of scrutinization. Does everything happen for a reason or is it all meaningless? Cage plays the amiable John Koestler, a man keen on his job and even more on stabilizing the relationship with his motherless son Caleb. At his elementary school, the committee pulls out a tube full of letters from fifty years ago, and what do you know --†Caleb gets the one written by a deranged child who could predict the future (this is how the movie opens, on a dark and murky note). There are a bunch of numbers, but what do they mean? Do they follow some peculiar pattern or is it all nonsense? John's deterministic temperament can't get over this letter. He studies it and studies it, until he comes to realize that determinism is the factor. These factors all link to certain catastrophes from the past. 9/11, Holocaust, you name it. Unfortunately, John has bigger problems. The ominous letter implies that the world will end...in days.
Knowing plods on its ideas. Everything happens way too gradually. All of a sudden, catastrophic events happen, in John's milieu --†plans crash outside his window, on compacted freeway. Okay, the special effects are dazzling, and Alex Proyas crafts it through a tracking shot. John moves through the carnage, as combusted citizens run amuck. It's a frightening visceral set piece. But where does all the fun go? The second half muddles itself in plot-based fallacies. This isn't a deterministic sci-fi thriller, it's just another silly experiment on how absurd these types of films can get.
John even meets Diana (Rose Byrne), the daughter of the possessed girl. We get caught up in that convincing game. John has to persuade Diana that the world is ending and that her mother was a delirious yet unusually smart soul. The quirks are strikingly familiar and Knowing becomes knowingly trite. Even Caleb and Diana's young daughter Abby are being stalked by some cult-like dressed Strangers, with glowing eyes, martyrs of the extra terrestrial. This is so absurd, I begin to believe two plus two does equal five.
The climax abides too much on its plot elements that Knowing doesn't border on absurd, it in itself is absurd. What becomes a plausibly intelligent thriller devolves into a maddening frenzy on pretentious existentialism and sacrilegious undertones. The end notions on paradise, juxtaposed by a previous scene of ultimate carnage. So, maybe Knowing implies to find heaven we need to endure hell, or maybe some of us are only meant for heaven. Suddenly, Proyas's project becomes a contemplation of predestination science fiction.
Nicolas Cage is good here, as he always is. But the sun can't hide the rain here. With a second half that starts to make itself up as it goes along, Knowing crumbles under a possibly adequate first half. Deterministic or random? Who knows. Proyas eventually couldn't care less, he'd rather investigate the stupidity beyond the close encounters of that third kind. But aliens never pop up in Knowing and by the end, I really wish they did.
I SAY--Skip It.