Film review: Knowing

Newsroom 27/07/2009 | 17:20

Debbie Stowe

Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, Lara Robinson
On at: Corso, Hollywood Multiplex, Movieplex, Starplex, The Light

Fast forward to the present day, when the time capsule is disinterred and the predictions handed out to the current year group. The recipient of Lucinda's demented numbers is young Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), who passes them onto his widowed father John (Nicolas Cage in troubled mode). In a late night drinking session (to numb the pain of his wife's loss, not because he's a deadbeat dad), astrophysicist John mulls over the numbers, and in a moment of whiskey-induced brilliance realises that the page contains the dates and death tolls of all the major disasters in recent history – along with a few more to come – predicted decades before they happened.
Needless to say, John doesn't go to the police or the media with this astonishing proof of the authenticity of prophecy (even though the world has been awaiting this evidence for millennia). No, he takes it to his friend and colleague – who, of course, doesn't believe him. Why do people in movies never believe the main character even when they have incontrovertible corroboration of their story? Anyway, John starts investigating the mystery himself, and discovers that adult Lucinda had a daughter Diana (Rose Byrne), who is (a) not weird (b) attractive and (c) single.
When further disasters occur in line with Lucinda's predictions, and spooky blond men keep popping up all over the place, X Files style, the pair must solve the mystery before more lives are lost.
Knowing starts off as an agreeably tense thriller, with a gripping and unsettling atmosphere established from the very first scene. The excitement builds as Cage googles his way to the truth about Lucinda (Lara Robinson) and her gift. But the tautness is lost when the film switches from Japanese-style, or J-horror, tension to a stock end-of-days science fiction flick, in the vein of recent disaster films (interpret that either way) War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. While the final third of the film is by no means terrible, it is very odd and startlingly downbeat, and comes with something approaching a Damascene conversion that is out of kilter with the unsentimental start. A better way to resolve the story, more localised and real world-ish, would have made for a superior picture. The running time of just over two hours also tests viewer patience given that the ludicrous-ometer is well into overdrive by the last half hour.
Still, there is plenty to relish here before things all go a bit bizarre and OTT. The entertaining creepiness is punctuated by some spectacular big-budget action sequences, which would not disgrace a Die Hard. True, they are hackneyed in places, but still visually impressive. Cage is well cast as the brooding widower, and the child actors also shine, with Lara Robinson, as both Lucinda and her present-day granddaughter, having the spooky kid routine down pat.
But to get anything out of the movie, you can't think closely about the plot, which does not stand up to the gentlest of scrutiny, even after the suspension of disbelief that all science fiction requires. Taking it at face value, though, there is enough atmosphere and thrills and spills to make Knowing worth seeing.

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