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Movie Review: Nicolas Cage fans better off not 'Knowing'

Lane Blevins • Mar 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The rumblings from different movie sites around the Web had forecast a bleak future for “Knowing.” The consensus seemed to be that this flick was as bad as Nicolas Cage’s hair in the movie.

One early positive review, however, had the sci-fi nut in me clinging to hope. Maybe, just maybe, my mind would be blown by a unique and riveting tale of extraordinary happenings. Maybe Cage would turn in a performance that would begin to repair the damage from a series of ill-advised roles. And possibly — just possibly — the film would outshine its pre-ordained destiny and prove wrong all of the angry, pent-up sci-fi geeks out there trolling the movie forums between sessions of “World of Warcraft.”

However, I come to you now with sad regret: This movie did none of these things.

“Knowing” is a mess. Better yet, in the parlance of sci-fi, it is a white dwarf star: It started out promising, but as it died, it simply devolved into bright light, burning the eyes of those who continued to watch. But I digress.

I was actually enjoying the first reel or so. I liked seeing Cage as a burned-out man grappling with the concept of science versus faith.

As the plot heated up, however, the film fell victim to the same trap that captures many genre films (especially the horror, fantasy and sci-fi genres) — unoriginality. “Knowing” is a kaleidoscope of re-hashed ideas we have seen time and time again. There’s the “freaky numbers” that are a code for the future.

There’s the “special child” who hears voices and knows what is going on. And of course, let’s not forget the pale-faced, mysterious men in black who appear throughout the movie.

The trailer sums up the film well. Cage plays John Coestler, a M.I.T. professor who is a widower single dad to son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). Caleb’s elementary school hosts a ceremony to unearth a 50-year-old time capsule buried by the school’s charter class.

When the children are each handed an envelope from the capsule, Caleb opens his to reveal a sheet of paper completely covered in a series of seemingly random numbers. John, who struggles with alcoholism in the wake of his wife’s death, has a few drinks and looks over the numbers. He begins to discover that the numbers relate to every natural disaster for the past 50 years.

Meanwhile, Caleb begins to receive visits from mysterious blonde-haired, blue-eyed strangers who do not speak to anyone other than him and another little girl through whispering.

John begins to see that the numbers also predict future disasters, and in an effort to stop them from coming true, he tracks down the daughter of the little girl who originally put the numbers in the time capsule. The film is then a race against time to stop the end of the world (blah blah blah).

Any sci-fi film requires some suspension of disbelief. The genre thrives on telling amazing stories meant to engage our imaginations. But “Knowing” has a few scenes that are so convenient and unbelievable that they immediately take you out of the story. I’m mainly referring to the incredibly bad scene in which John learns what the numbers mean. In a painfully contrived moment, he picks out the numbers for the 9/11 tragedy. It starts from there and moves into a lazy montage of him figuring out the code.


The most mystifying thing about this film is trying to understand what has happened to Cage’s career. For me, his best work involves more dramatic or comedic roles, flicks like “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Raising Arizona” and “Adaptation.” He or his agent (or both) seems to have gotten the idea that Cage is only and should only be an action star. That line of thinking has brought us such forgettable classics as “Next,” “Ghost Rider” and the wonder of wonders, “Bangkok Dangerous.” Do you see the trend here?

Mr. Cage, we implore you. STOP doing action movies.

The only merit awarded to “Knowing” is for its incredible visual effects, particularly in two sequences involving a plane crash and a subway crash.

So, here is the bottom line: Avoid this flick like the Bubonic Plague. The only audience I can see enjoying this picture are the most forgiving of sci-fi hounds.

You know, the type that support the genre to the point where they see no wrong in any film involving romanticized mathematics, aliens and end-of-the-world prophecies.

½ of 1 star (out of 4)

STARRING: Nicolas Cage

DIRECTED BY: Alex Proyas

RATED: PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language

RUNNING TIME: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Lane Blevins is a recent graduate of East Tennessee State University and an aspiring filmmaker.

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