Knowing (2009)

Knowing (2009)
  • Time: 121 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | Mystery
  • Director: Alex Proyas
  • Cast: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury


In the fall of 1959, for a time capsule, students draw pictures of life as they imagine it will be in 50 years. Lucinda, an odd child who hears voices, swiftly writes a long string of numbers. In 2009, the capsule is opened; student Caleb Koestler gets Lucinda’s “drawing” and his father John, an astrophysicist and grieving widower, takes a look. He discovers dates of disasters over the past 50 years with the number who died. Three dates remain, all coming soon. He investigates, learns of Lucinda, and looks for her family. He fears for his son, who’s started to hear voices and who is visited by a silent stranger who shows him a vision of fire and destruction. What’s going on?

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  • Born in Egypt, Alex Proyas has lived in Australia since he was three. Like David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac), he started out directing and editing music videos before entering the film industry. In the mid-90s, he directed The Crow (1994), establishing himself as a modern visual artist. In 1998, he made Dark City and became a filmmaking force to be reckoned with, creating a tremendously bleak vision of the future unmatched since Ridley Scott’s science-fiction classic – Blade Runner (1982). At the turn of the century, he entered mainstream cinema successfully with I, Robot (2004), a critically-acclaimed box-office hit.

    Knowing represents Proyas’ next endeavor. He tackles apocalyptic themes and explores the mystery of numerology, encapsulating it in a science-fiction formula that he is familiar with. Knowing tells the story of an astrophysics professor, John Koestler (Nicholas Cage), who finds a sheet containing numbers and begins to discover that these numbers are predictions of every major disaster that has occurred within the past fifty years. Three occurrences have not happened yet, so John attempts to go all-out to prevent them.

    Proyas constructs his film around these three occurrences, building an ominous mood throughout as well as bringing a morbid sense of uncertainty and a disquieting anticipation that engage viewers from start to end. He takes time to develop the story, including an important prologue set in 1959. As the film shifts to 2009, he makes progression in pacing and cranks up the suspense. While generally well-directed, Proyas stuns viewers in the second-quarter of the film with a standout CGI set-piece which is so realistic that it is genuinely terrifyingly intense and is worth the price of the admission ticket.

    The star performance belongs to Chandler Canterbury (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), whom at age eleven possesses remarkable acting talent. He outshines Cage for most parts even though Cage delivers possibly his best performance since ages ago. There is debate over the ending which I will not reveal except that it may be interpreted biblically or otherwise. But over-reliance on CGI effects somewhat curtails the emotional power of the film when something less grandeur could have been more poignant.

    The final shot reminds of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), a film that explores life-and-death and rebirth which is fitting here because humanity starts anew. Again. With Knowing, Proyas has not only made a motion picture that has big ideas and entertains as well, but he also poses the most disturbing question of all-time: What would you do if the world ends tonight?

    GRADE: B+ (8/10 or 3.5 stars)
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