In 1959, in a small New York school, a group of grade school children are preparing a time capsule to be buried, all with drawings of what they think the future will look like, except for one little girl, Lucinda Embry, who had the idea for the time capsule, instead of a drawing, she’s put in a sheet of numbers that on it’s surface seems incomprehensible. In 2009, Caleb Koestler, the son of an MIT Astrophysics professor, John Koestler, gets to be the lucky recipient of what Lucinda wrote down, and his father soon starts to see a pattern to the numbers, all displaying times of extreme disaster and indicating the number of lives lost to each disaster. John now seeks to stop the moments that he believes are yet to come, and all the while, some mysterious figures are keeping an eye on him and his son…
That’s the basic premise to Knowing the newest movie from director Alex Proyas and star Nicolas Cage. In the past, Alex Proyas has given us movies like The Crow, Dark City and I, Robot and has certainly demonstrated with the last two that he’s a big fan of an old school type of science fiction film but with some new twists to it, and that’s what Knowing is, most definitely. My expectations were relatively low on this, primarily for Cage more than anything else, as with him you just never know what you’re going to get, either something that seems more to concentrate on his penchant for quirkiness and to see what new hairstyle he’ll bring to a part, or something more serious… and thankfully, with Knowing it’s something more serious.
In some ways, I saw a lot of parallels to what’s happened over the last four seasons of Battlestar Galactica in this film, with the biggest difference in that Galactica had a long time to make sure that every “t” was crossed and every “i” was dotted. Knowing tries to do a lot of the same in two hours, and I can see why there are some critics out there that have huge problems with the film. But I gave into it’s premise, and really thought that Proyas delivered another old school sci-fi treat here (and at it’s core, there is an explanation as to why it all went the way it does).
The best thing that Proyas does though, is that when some of the upcoming disasters start to happen, he ramps up the visuals and the action some notches above what you expect, just as he did with the dazzling end of Dark City and those moments are real grabbers when they happen. The movie is a little slow-building getting to where it’s going, but when these moments happen, they’ll snag you, or at least they did me. The other thing he does here, is that he’s not afraid to have this go very dark, with no easy solutions at all to it’s ending.
Proyas is also really well aided with a great score from composer Macro Beltrami, who also really steps up to the plate when the big moments happen.
Cage is pretty good here, and with the exception of one scene that falls into a little bit of cliche, he’s pretty rock solid in the film delivering one of his better performances in a while. Rose Byrne heads up the mostly unknown supporting cast, and they’re all fine, but this is Cage’s movie no doubt about that and we’re (mostly) seeing this through his experiences more than anyone else’s.
In the end though, I think Alex Proyas has delivered another very cool old school science fiction film with a rock solid performance from it’s lead actor. To me, this is something like the recent remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still or M. Night Shymalan’s The Happening totally done right and of course, I’m giving this a solid recommendation for being this sort of film and not afraid to buck a few Hollywood conventions.