Knowing – Movie Review

Movie Reviews 6 Comments
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Opening Date: 25th March (UK), 20th March (US)
Running Time: 121 minutes
Certification: 15 (UK), PG-13 (US)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury
Rating: ★★★.5 / ★★★★★

When I was a child, I used to watch a lot of the popular long-running sci-fi series Outer Limits on TV. In one episode, entitled “The Message“, aired in 1995, a young woman is given a new sophisticated hearing aid to improve her hearing. Unfortunately all she hears are strange sounds, combined with nightmares and searing pains in her head, and a compulsion to write out a strange binary code. Everyone else thinks she’s going mad, but a former astrophysicist-turned-janitor takes pity on her and feeds the code into his computer. He realises that the code translates into a giant pictorial message from aliens sending out a distress call across the light years because their planet is going to collide with the sun soon. So the janitor uses a laser he still has access to in his old lab, shoots a beam and saves the aliens, with the young woman’s help.

So why am I telling you all this? Because Knowing, Nicolas Cage‘s latest offering, has a plot with a lot of elements that seem very, very similar to me. Cage stars as John Koestler, a widowed MIT professor struggling to get used to being a single dad to his 11-year-old hearing-impaired son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). On the 50th anniversary of Caleb’s elementary school, a time capsule buried in 1959 is unearthed and the children are given messages drawn by children in 1959 visualising the future. Everybody gets a picture except Caleb, who receives a piece of paper completely covered with a strange numbered code, inscribed by a troubled little girl named Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson).

Nicolas Cage realises that Knowing isn’t Everything
Image © Escape Artists

John, while trying to avoid thinking about his departed wife, studies the code casually and begins to spot a pattern – the numbers match the dates of all known world disasters in the last 50 years, complete with the number of people killed and the geographical coordinates. He tells his friend at MIT, Phil Beckman (Ben Mendelsohn), who advises him to forget about it. Caleb also starts hearing strange whispers in his hearing aid, has nightmares and starts seeing creepy dark figures around the house.

Worried about Caleb and what he has uncovered, John is unable to resist finding out the truth about the piece of paper, and he hunts down Lucinda’s daughter Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne). Together they become embroiled in a thrilling mystery, and as the future dates inscribed on the piece of paper begin to come true, John begins worrying what will happen when they run out.

While half the popular movie critics seem to hate Knowing, I for one have to say I’m on the Pro- camp. I definitely don’t think that Knowing is the best sci-fi film I’ve ever seen, but its well-acted as a whole – one of Nicolas Cage’s finer performances recently. I am a bit miffed that the film sounds like a slightly reworked version of Outer LimitsThe Message, but there’s enough in the plot to prevent it from being out-right plagiarism, so never mind. The animation is exquisite too – shockingly realistic and beautifully textured.

My main beef with this film, I suppose, has to do with certain plot devices that don’t make any sense (but I can’t really reveal them without giving too much away), and the way the theme of religion is portrayed. I sense the makers of Knowing are trying to make a point about religion and the divide between those who believe that everything is meant to be (i.e. Determinism) and those who believe that everything is down to chance (i.e. Random). However, this theme seemed rather ambiguously placed and metaphors weren’t very clear, so I think they have failed in this respect.

Still, a thriller with fast-paced action, beautiful CGI and an intriguing premise. Worth a watch, but perhaps best not to look too deeply for meaning or your brain might get scrambled.

    6 Responses to “Knowing – Movie Review”

    1. Becki says:

      I still totally intend to go and see this film as Nic Cage is one of my favourite actors.

    2. Taiki says:

      … Interesting… will put it on me to-watch list. X3

    3. Howard says:

      I enjoyed reading the review. It doesn’t sound like a film I would pay to see, but might try to catch it when it gets to the TV.

    4. Dorna says:

      Yes! I totally agree with you, it was a very interesting and unique approach to uncover a topic like this one using astrophysics theories like determinism and randomness, it could’ve been a very good film but somehow that got lost in translation! :( And I found some of the imagery and the screaming a little OTT….almost uncomfortable. lol the alien people were kind of cool though!

    5. Mick says:

      Good review :) I pretty much agree. The film had moments of brilliance where it attempted to push boundaries and succeeded (and some moments where it failed) but it suffered from being a bit hollywood most of the time. I’m still undecided how I’d personally rate it. And WHY CAN’T THEY MAKE FILMS ABOUT NORMAL FAMILIES!!!!!!!

    6. Jan says:

      LOL @ Mick’s comment! As always, your movie reviews are a delight to read. :)

      In spite of its box-office success, I wasn’t planning to watch this one. With Nic Cage films, I usually just look at the posters to check out his hairstyles. Really, his hair acts more than he does!

      But what you said about the film trying to make a point about religion caught my attention. I might watch it just to annoy myself. Mwehe!