Monday, March 23, 2009

A movie review: Knowing (2009)

Knowing (2009)
Director - Alex Proyas
Release Date: 20 March 2009 (USA)
Rated PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language
Nicolas Cage - John Koestler
Chandler Canterbury - Caleb Koestler
Rose Byrne - Diana Wayland
Lara Robinson - Lucinda Embry / Abby Wayland

Let me start off with the most important statement that I can make about the new Nicolas Cage thriller, Knowing: Disregard all previous negativity you may harbor towards Nicholas Cage and his prior movie selections.

Director Alex Proyas (I, Robot (2004);Dark City (1998);The Crow (1994)) thrusts Cage into the center of an apocalyptic realization which ultimately sends him on frenzied pace to make sense of knowledge imparted to him. Will his knowing of past and future events be of benefit to him? To his family? To all human race?

The story begins with young Lucinda in a 1959 schoolhouse. This little girl clearly does not fit in with her peers and seems to be in a distant world of thought. When the class project is given to draw a picture of what the future will look like in 50 years, she frantically jots down a sequence of numbers, single spaced, covering every inch of white her paper. The teacher, in a hurry to get everything done with, collects all the pictures along with the number sheet and in they go to a time capsule to be opened in 50 years by future children.

Clearly the numbers are of significant value to the story line, and if you’ve seen a trailer you realize it is not a spoiler to say that the numeric codes are a prediction of future tragedies around the world. Why this innocent girl? Why must she carry the burden? And why is it Caleb, Cage’s John Koestler’s son, who is chosen to receive the envelope containing this baffling document? And what can someone who understands the significance do about, well, any of it?

The movie, at the core, is a question raised by professor John Koestler as he lectures at M.I.T one beautiful day in Massachusetts: Is the universe full of pre-determined events or is a mere randomness that has brought us all here? The film is full of religious references that I am sure I missed, not being a student at all of religious symbolism, but it in no way affects your understanding, or, at the very least, in no way affects the brilliance of suspense and wonderful shot-making that takes place over 2 hours.

My praise for this film could not be much higher, and I am so happy to say that I went with my gut and gave this movie a chance. I was fully prepared to sweep it aside but thankfully some lively discussion with others (and influenced greatly by the 4 star review from Roger Ebert) changed my thinking.

Shot in a grainy texture throughout, a series of freaky shots pertaining to cloaked men (?) is really a driving force of the film, and by the end you should hopefully have done some deep-thought analysis as to what everything has meant – think deterministic or random, then think religion and atheism, then combine it all together and try come up with an answer. There may very well not be a correct answer to the test, but getting there was a lot of fun.

This film is in no way the hokey fun that National Treasure (2004) was, nor is it the comedic genius of Raising Arizona (1987), instead, what we get from all the actors, children alike, and especially from Cage, is a little bit of Leaving Las Vegas (1995) mixed with Apocalypse Now (1979), though I don’t care to elaborate on that here. The final scene leaves us with more questions than answers, but has the definite feel of a complete ending sequence, and one in which I think makes the film a real masterpiece.

EDIT: After all the discussion and re-thinking some points, I am going to go with an 8/10. Very fair arguments by some. If I go with 9 I have to compare it to a lot of other 9s which clearly blow this out of the water... I was obviously influenced by past bad movies and nothing good in the last few months. Thanks to all for commenting on this thread. I am sticking with an 8/10 and agree that 9 is too high. I still think it was good enough to see in the theater.

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