Directed by: Alex Proyas
Premise: A physics professor (Nicolas Cage) discovers a sheet of paper in a time capsule that predicts every major disaster of the last fifty years and makes a few more for the near future.
What Works: As of late, Nicolas Cage has been headlining a lot of very bad films such as The Wicker Man, Bangkok Dangerous, and Next. Fortunately, Knowing is a far better film than any of these (which admittedly is faint praise). Cage’s character is actually well written and given some interesting family problems that contribute very well to building up the film. The picture puts the fate of the world at stake and the potential loss of human existence is made much more concrete because of the family drama. Director Alex Proyas is a very talented filmmaker and he shows a lot of smart cinematic choices in the way he stages action scenes. Knowing moves along briskly, not getting caught up in the numerology but rather focusing on the mystery and the film is extremely well shot with plenty of startling images.
What Doesn’t: While some philosophy students have occasionally snubbed The Matrix or Minority Report for oversimplifying arguments over free will and determinism, Knowing really waters down its subject, in part by conflating natural disasters and human actions and arguing that both are subject to the same issues of choice. The ending of the film is intended to pull the rug out from under the audience and it does but not in a way that makes sense or is credible. Instead it comes off as a quite literal deus ex machina conclusion that defeats the rest of the film.
Bottom Line: Knowing is a thrill ride with aspirations of intelligence. Its dabbling with philosophy is just that, but since the film never gets too arrogant about it, the film is much more forgivable. In the end, Knowing is an average science fiction story with some above average visuals.
Episode: #233 (March 29, 2009)