3.5
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Knowing

March 25, 2009  |  4:53pm
Knowing

Release Date: March 20

Director: Alex Proyas

Writers: Ryne Douglas Pearson, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White, Stuart Hazeldine

Cinematographer: Simon Duggan        

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, D.G. Maloney

Studio/Run Time: Summit, 122 mins.


Another day, another apocalypse


Toward the end of Knowing, the hyper new sci-fi parable, wide-eyed star Nic Cage wails, “How am I supposed to stop the end of the world?” At this point, the movie has hurtled through so many breathless sequences of disaster violence that the plot has virtually shut down, but still, it’s a fair question. And in one of the only moments of real verve, the movie comes up with an unlikely answer: Sorry, Nic, but you don’t.

Without going any further (reader, if you only knew what happens in this movie), it’s hard to be clear about where it all goes wrong. The film follows an MIT professor who comes across a sheet of numbers that, we’re told, spell out every major disaster of the past 50 years. The trouble is that the numbers end a couple of days from now, and some creepy albino guys have begun to show up and menace the professor’s kid, and, well, THE WORLD IS GOING TO END!

To be fair, by the final scenes, it’s reasonably clear what the numbers mean and what will happen to the characters. The movie does not cop out. In fact, on their own, those final three or four minutes (set, amusingly, to Beethoven’s seventh symphony) have a serene beauty, as if they belong to a movie a lot more imaginative—hell, a lot more fun—than Knowing. But they do not, and instead the movie trades occasional moments of inspiration for obvious allegory and second-hand action sequences that shoot for stark seriousness but can barely pass for pop spectacle.

Directed by Alex Proyas, who used to make moves like The Crow, the film is perhaps not as worthy of scorn as others of its tired apocalyptic brethren. It makes a sincere attempt to engage actual ideas, and it even cooks up a clever explanation for the plot’s contrivances through a transparent bit about determinism and randomness (yes, really). But in truth, Proyas, a capable and even inventive director when he’s in the mood, never finds a way to pull together the many errant strands of this story into something that even resembles a complete experience. By the time the movie reveals all its secrets, there won’t be a person left in the house who can keep a straight face.

Watch the trailer for Knowing:

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