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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.25%
Worth A Look: 13.56%
Average: 16.95%
Pretty Bad37.29%
Total Crap: 16.95%

5 reviews, 29 user ratings

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by W. Scott Gordon

"Some things are better off not Knowing"
2 stars

Director Alex Proyas has created some intriguing films that are sometimes mired down in seriousness. Nicholas Cage has done some transcendent work, but has seemed pretty tired lately. Just take the worst qualities of both and you have a seriously tired film.

At a Massachusetts elementary school circa 1959, a very special event is taking place: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the schoolfs founding, a time capsule containing the memories of students will be buried near the entrance. Each student must make a drawing depicting the future 50 years hence. All is well (too well, as always in these films) until the camera pans in on the face of a pinched, solitary girl whofs freaky in a Children of the Corn kind of way. The girl scribbles with mad fervor, but her masterpiece is nothing but a series of meaningless numbers. However, as the time capsule slides ominously into the ground, more entombed than enshrined, we know that those numbers are anything but meaningless. What message awaits the children of 2009? What does this creepy kid know that we do not? These first scenes are cliched but surprisingly effective horror-schlock, and they provide an interesting setup for the rest of the story, such as it is.

Flash forward 50 years to the same elementary school, where young girls and boys wait impatiently to receive messages from the children of the past. While everyone is scrambling to grab a picture from the capsule, Freaky Girlfs mysterious note falls into the hands of a pensive boy named Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), who is intrigued enough to shove it into his backpack before heading home.

His father John Koestler, played with heavy-lidded, lethargic grace by not-quite-Hollywood enigma Nicholas Cage, has plunged into listless alcoholism following the death of his beloved wife some years before. Hefs the kind of guy who has a telescope in his backyard and whose excuse for father-son banter includes quizzing his son about how many planets in the known galaxy can sustain life. He acts this way because he is, of course, an astrophysics professor at MIT. The moment his half-curious glance trains over the paper protruding from Calebfs backpack, the game is afoot.

It only takes Koestler a few nights in the company of his whiskey bottle, a standard-issue paranoid professor whiteboard, and a kick-ass Internet connection, to divine the meaning of the numbers. This whole sequence feels stuck somewhere between A Beautiful Mind and National Treasure, and creakily shifts the moviefs tone from horror to mystery-suspense.

Revealing the mystery would spoil the ride, but needless to say the news isnft good. Koestlerfs revelation leads him to the site of several disasters, including a plane crash on a rain-soaked road and a fiery train wreck. Refreshingly, the carnage doesnft feel like the standard, slap-dash CGI fare to which wefve all become accustomed. Scenes of our hero rushing through a litter of burning people, some still screaming in agony, achieve the jittery immediacy of the classic car-chase scene in Children of Men while also recalling the macabre post-9/11 imagery of Steven Spielbergfs War of the Worlds.

In these moments the film reaches a zenith of terrible beauty not matched by the story itself, especially when it forays into dramatic territory. Koestler's quest to comprehend the horrors hefs seen leads him to track down Freaky Girl's daughter, a young woman whose own daughter seems quite taken with the professor's son. Shefs reluctant to help him at first, but...sorry, nodded off there for a moment. After the obligatory gIfm not coming with you!h tripe, she of course does. Knowing then becomes a full-on chase picture, with most excitement being generated by leaving the kiddies in jeopardy on no fewer than 3 occasions when there was absolutely no reason to do so. Note to parents: If ever you decide to explore a spooky old abandoned motor home for clues in the dead of night, donft leave your kids in the van alone! Hell, donft even take them with you. eNuff said.

After the suspense, horror, mystery and drama have run their course, the storyfs final act takes a turn into science fiction that would be absurd had it not been blatantly telegraphed in a much earlier scene. This final genre-defying shift severs whatever connective tissue the film may have had, trumpeting the anything goes mentality that is the mantra of overworked writers everywhere. With some final soul-searching, tears, and E.T/Close Encounters inspired visuals, the mystery solves itself and we are left curiously unfulfilled.

In critiquing this movie I cited 7 films and 5 genres, a record for me and an indication of problems in the writing department. Although slickly produced, Knowing tried to be too many things to too many people. What could have been an intelligent exploration of the nature of fate and (un)predictability became instead a mish-mash of previous efforts, unpredictable only in its unevenness.

Knowing was OK, but I need some steak with my genre salad. personally Ifd rather go watch E.T.fs Close Encounter with the Children of the Corn.

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originally posted: 07/31/09 16:07:30
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good aliens take humans to another plant after world ends flick 4 stars
6/09/14 Richard Brandt Starts as a genuinely creepy thriller, loses it by over-the-top celestial resolution 3 stars
12/03/12 Cicero If you think this is engaging cinema, kill yourself; you don't deserve to have a brain. 1 stars
7/23/12 fartvenugen Mind-numbingly stupid 2 stars
5/19/11 Anonymous Riveting, gripping, edge of your seat exciting. We couldn't miss one second of it. 5 stars
1/27/11 R.W. Welch Rather imaginative mix of the paranormal and sci-fi genres. B- 4 stars
12/07/10 millersxing It's as easy as ABC...Awkward, Bland, & Contradictory. 2 stars
2/01/10 Danny Worth renting (see once), but not extremely good. 3 stars
10/16/09 JW If only I could un-know Knowing 1 stars
8/12/09 Monday Morning This is like an early M. Night Shalamayan film. In other words, very good! 4 stars
8/01/09 JR Great film. Proyas has a keen and creative eye. 5 stars
7/29/09 Mishyana what a godawful pile of crap. Bleah. I'd rate it less than one star if I could. 1 stars
7/26/09 mr.mike Didn't like some aspects of the ending , still a good movie tho. 4 stars
7/14/09 Yutani Corp A better film than I was expecting, Proyas giving a nice atmosphere and more thoughtful 4 stars
7/07/09 Benny Lava Really awesome plane crash, I'm sure it's on Youtube somewhere.Watch that and skip the film 2 stars
7/03/09 Kermit Crissey I really liked the movie,I will see it again several times 5 stars
6/20/09 Thomas extremely good film, great performance by cage 5 stars
4/29/09 ravenmad sci-fi, biblical undertones, interesting. Didn't understand the stones? Worth watching! 5 stars
4/21/09 matt Proyas made a fucking MASTERPIECE. i had chills the entire movie 5 stars
4/07/09 Chuck I loved this movie! GREAT disaster scenes! 5 stars
4/06/09 Ethan Plane crash scene was epic, ending reminded me of the wickerman...*sighs* 3 stars
4/03/09 Ming Nothing interesting about this film,the only good part is the plane crash 2 stars
3/29/09 Jack Sommersby A first-rate sci-fi thriller with Cage a stalwart hero. 4 stars
3/26/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Took some chances and works outside the box. Ending flirts with merkaba and kabbalah. 4 stars
3/25/09 K. Roberts FANTASTIC and I've seen it twice already. 5 stars
3/23/09 Bnorm It was ok. Ending with white tree and rabbits was stupid tho. 3 stars
3/22/09 JR3 Great movie 5 stars
3/22/09 action movie fan the critics are wrong this film was interesting and scary and good in most ways 4 stars
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  20-Mar-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Jul-2009


  DVD: 07-Jul-2009

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