It's a shame, too. Because there is a moderately compelling premise beneath the layers and layers of imbecility shrouding Knowing. Fifty years ago, a stark-raving school girl with pigtails and psychosis dropped a sheet of paper with a series of numbers on it into a time capsule at her elementary school. In the present day, John Koestler (Cage) and his son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), come into possession of that sheet of paper when the time capsule is unearthed. A drunken John -- recently widowed -- discovers the meaning behind the numbers. They represent every major national tragedy of the last 50 years -- the date, the number killed, and the GPS location. In the simplest terms, the numbers challenge John's belief in the randomness of life, which he holds in contradiction to his father's theological convictions. If, in fact, these events were predicted by a schoolgirl 50 years ago, then determinism is at play, perhaps proving the divine nature of our universe. God didn't merely set things into motion; he's still got his hands on the stick shift.
If Knowing had settled there, then perhaps the film would've been a bland thriller marred only by Cage's obtuseness, his insistence on gritting his teeth occasionally and speaking as though he had a jar of molasses lodged into his skull. If he could, in fact, predict the tragedies, perhaps he could be in the right location to prevent them. If so, he'd then prove to be a more powerful force than the creator of the universe, rending the series of numbers irrelevant, reaffirming the randomness of life, all the while revealing Knowing simply to be a another pointless exercise among many in Nic Cage's career.
Unfortunately, Knowing careens off the rails and plummets into an abyss of zany preposterousness so deep that you could reach your hand into Australia. There is one thing worse than a pointless cinematic experience, and that's a completely nonsensical one. Such is the fate of Knowing when the sci-fi Boogeyman rears its head. The Boogeyman here are Whisper People, creatures that look as though they've crawled out of Diesel Jean ads and spent a couple of days mainlining embalming fluid. Only John's son Caleb, and the granddaughter of the stark-raving school girl (Lara Robinson, in both roles) can hear their whispers. What are they telling them? Essentially, how they can save themselves from the last series of numbers, an end-of-the-world prediction. How can they possibly save themselves without running afoul of Judeo-Christian belief? Let's just say that bunny rabbits and the forbidden tree are involved. Indeed, a less ludicrous ending to Knowing might have involved the entire world buying a coke and jumping just as the metaphorical elevator crashed bottom.
It's a difficult movie to square with director Alex Proyas' earlier career (The Crow, Dark City), and it'd be more comforting to blame it on the script, except that Proyas wrote it, or on studio pressures, though I can't imagine even the liquid-brained suits at Summit Entertainment would wish that ending upon any movie. But then again, they're the same ones who fired the director of the most successful vampire flick of all time after the first entry into the franchise. I can only guess that Proyas conjured up an interesting premise, and could find nowhere to take it but a Biblical LaLa land where golden wheat dances in a meadow. The only way it could've been more idiotic is if Nic Cage had stabbed his eyes out when he took the Oedipal, overacting fall to his knees as the final events unfolded. At least then, he'd have been saved from the vision the rest of us had to suffer through.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. You can email him or leave a comment below.
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