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Review

Big name actor fails to compensate for confusing plot, obvious ending

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April 2, 2009

Blending genres can be a unique and bold feat. The whole process of writing and directing such a film is so delicate, in that elements have to be carefully aligned in a way that makes sense, is intelligent and is entertaining.

“Knowing” is none of these things. Despite having a big-name actor in the starring role (screwball ‘thespian’ Nicolas Cage) and its obviously high CGI animation budget, “Knowing” turns out to be a forgettable and banal viewing experience.

The year is 1959, in Lexington, Mass. A mentally-disturbed girl, Lucinda (Lara Robinson), has won a contest for the idea to celebrate a school’s opening. The class buries a time capsule with pictures from the children to be opened in 50 years. Lucinda writes a bunch of numbers with no apparent sequence or pattern to be put into the time capsule.

Fifty years later, the capsule is opened, and MIT astrophysicist and professor John Koestler’s (Cage) son is the recipient of Lucinda’s page of numbers.

John dismisses it at first glance, but soon notices a pattern in the numbers after a ring of alcohol from his drinking glass soaked into the paper.

The sequence shows the dates of significant disasters, as well as the body count and the coordinates of where the disaster occurred. John goes insane trying to prevent the events from happening, while trying to figure out the mystery behind Lucinda’s writing of the numbers.

Meanwhile, his son begins to hear voices in his head and encounters strange people trying to lure him away from his father.

“Knowing” is overall a disaster movie—a catastrophic event occurs that sends the population batshit crazy and we follow the story of a small group of people in their struggle to survive. But the film is not restricted to the disaster scenario. Other elements such as The Rapture, astrophysics, determinism and numerology come into play, and confuse viewers even further. It is basically “Number 23,” “Left Behind” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” rolled into one meandering movie.

Films that have a lot going on and do not make much sense superficially are not automatically bad (i.e. “Southland Tales” and “Pi: Faith in Chaos”). But had “Knowing” stuck with ideas and developed them more, it would have come off as less half-assed and more intelligently crafted.

Making clichéd allusions to Bible stories does not make a movie smart. A more developed background of the prophecy’s origins would have been nice. And anyone familiar with Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” concept will only pick up on it in the very end, where it is only left partially explored with a redundant inclusion. A few subliminal themes are hinted at, but never fully hold through the film as a whole.

The biggest sin committed is the sheer predictability of the flick. Anyone paying attention in the first half can pretty much figure out the second, including the anti-climax and woefully executed denouement.

“Knowing” is a predictable thriller that could have been much better if it didn’t drone on mindlessly under the guise of pseudo-intelligent writing.

2 stars out of 5

José Cruz Jr. is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.