11
Apr
09

‘Knowing’

2009
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Nadia Townsend

Give It A Chance
A time capsule is opened at ‘William Dawes Elementary School’ for its 50 year anniversary. Inside are a large collection of pictures of what children in 1959 thought the future would be like, as well as a huge list of numbers, which are in a pattern, predicting with startling accuracy, when certain catastrophic events will happen…And then it gets worse.
Alex Proyas (‘I, Robot’) directs this interesting supernatural thriller, questioning certain life aspects that are taken for granted, or simply ignored.

Nicolas Cage, to start, is poorly miscast; his talents are generally not of which to display a certain sense of versatility, but he can thrive amiably in the right role (‘Adaptation’ being my personal favourite, where he plays screenwriter Charlie Kaufman). But in the case of ‘Knowing’, he didn’t fit; the character of ‘John Koestler’ was not horribly written, that is to say he had a certain level of acceptable depth to his character, and certain nuances which were acceptable, but Cage simply couldn’t perform the character in a sufficient manner, making it hard to be instantly gripped by the film.

The film is actually surprisingly enthralling as it goes on though, but there is a certain level of suspension of disbelief required, which actually comes naturally as the film goes along. The film succeeds well in establishing its own sense of plausibility, and this is mostly brought about by the protagonist as we start to accept the way in which he perceives things. This makes it so that soon enough you’re able to disregard any scepticism for certain issues dealt with via the film, and just…Go with it. Once this portion of the film comes to light, the tension surely follows, the tension is executed adequately. There is something about Proyas’s films in general from the 3 I have seen (including ‘Knowing’), where he successfully protrudes a sense of “I feel like I know what’s going to happen, but all the same, I’m not entirely sure where he is going with this.”, this is quite a nice aspect and negates some of the predictions you may formulate before or during the film (although, that isn’t to say some parts of it aren’t predictable.)

Predetermination, or a string of random events – How do you perceive life to be?
This is the initial question put forth by ‘John Koestler’, part of instigating the suspension of disbelief is through getting the viewer to open their minds a little to certain theoretical cosmic orders. Personally, I have a fairly open mind to such things anyway, so I was a fairly susceptible specimen of the films own realm of plausibility. In this sense, the film is probably more aimed at people with a more open mind to certain principles as fate, or divine intervention, or perhaps even people who solidly believe in such notions. If you’re a person who has stubbornly decided they are in control of their lives, and there is no higher power, and so on so forth, then this probably isn’t a film for you, as it will just irate you into why they haven’t focused upon the other side of the story so much. But then, generally, such people shouldn’t really be watching supernatural thrillers anyway.

After you’ve bought into the story and the early intentions of viewer captivation, then the plot itself actually becomes quite enjoyable, you start to care about the events that follow in the film and curiosity looms amongst the existing tension, and keep you watching, as well as wanting to know what happens, regardless of any predictions developed. It’s funny how a film based on premonitions and predictions can have certain aspects in it so anticipated…Intentional?
However, having personal views on predetermination aside, religion also comes into this film. It’s quite an undesirable aspect, as it focuses solidly on the Christian faith. These elements aren’t specifically obvious, but they are a consistently underlying theme which the film could probably have done without. It makes references to the tales of ‘Noah’s Ark’, ‘Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden’, as well as the use of glacial pebbles. For a viewer heavily familiar with these stories, and well endowed with knowledge of the meaning behind glacial pebbles, then the film can be construed as predictable…In this sense, the aforementioned point possibly was intentional.

It’s amazing, thinking about it now, how a film with such a poor trailer and to be in the mainstream box office, has turned out to have quite a reasonable level of depth to it. More specifically, the script is surprisingly well written if you allow yourself to accept the films own internal credibility. However saying this, there’s a fair set of dialogue which is quite bad, and sometimes humorously so. For example “Don’t let him watch the news.”, “The caves won’t save us!” and “We have to go where the numbers tell us!” to note a few. These lines make sense during the later portions of the film.
Also, some of the CGI didn’t really match up to modern day expectations, but nonetheless, it’s acceptable. Especially during an early plane crash scene, the CGI seemed fairly poor, but the cinematography that followed in the aftermath of the crash was superb, and quite possibly the highlight of the film, if only for me personally.
On top of this, the climax to the film is severely misplaced, having done such a thoroughly good job of bringing the audience into the realm of the film, the ending is so dissonant from the rest, that you just have to draw the line and question ‘Hang on…What?’. To some, the films plausibility is a stretch upon the imagination already, and then the climax more still. But I couldn’t help but think about an earlier Proyas film by the name of ‘Dark City’ (which I’ve also reviewed), that also had a somewhat anomalous consummation, however ‘Dark City’ seemed to do a better job at letting you believe it. This is a peculiar point to make though, seeing how Proyas wasn’t involved in the actual writing process of ‘Knowing’.

Everything about this film (with the exception of the plane crash scene and a couple other scenes involving visual effects) seems to just be a string of ‘acceptable’ sequences, and nothing that yells greatness or individuality. It is a greatly entertaining film though, but not one worth going out of your way for. This’ll be a 7 out of 10, it’s quite well structured, reasonably well written and its attempts to draw in the audience work fantastically. It’s nothing to make time for, but it’s worth giving a chance. If you do, you must go in open minded.

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2 Responses to “‘Knowing’”


  1. 1 Rav
    April 17, 2009 at 5:59 am

    !SPOILER WARNING!: This comment contains spoilers, if you have not yet seen the film and don’t wish the plot to be given away, please do not continue to read this comment.

    I don’t have time to go into depth right now but I’ve got two things to say.
    1) There was one overwhelming problem with this film in my opinion: Every single event in this film was absolutely pointless. The aliens took the boy no matter what Cage tried. Consequentially, I felt I had lost two hours of my life because, as you said, Nicolas Cage-normally a favorite of mine-didn’t really make me care about his character.
    2) If you could give this movie the same rating as you gave “The Departed” I hereby renounce all faith in humanity.
    And please don’t take these remarks as hostile, I’ve painfully learned text can never carry the nuances of speech and I enjoyed reading your comments.

  2. April 17, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you Rav,

    Your comments are much appreciated!

    Yes, I gave ‘Knowing’ and ‘The Departed’ the same rating, but for different reasons. It’s also just a number, and my ratings are more subjective and based on my own prejudices and shouldn’t really be taken to heart.

    True; the events were ultimately pretty pointless, but wasn’t the pointlessness the point of the film?
    They tried to put across some aspect of ‘the futility of life’ across, but judging on your first point, you are a perfect example as to why you should never deviate too far away from the ‘happy ending’ when considering mainstream cinema. There is a certain generic threshold that certain people allow when not delivered escapism, this bar is proving to be increasing ever higher, but I think ‘Knowing’ perhaps went a little too far, which is why the film is fairly ordinary.

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading my review!


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