Knowing Directed by: Alex Proyas Cast: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury Running Time: 2 hrs, 2 minutes Rating: PG-13
Plot: A disillusioned widower/college professor’s son (Cage) attends an elementary school that plans to unveil a time capsule that’s been buried for 50 years. Little does he know that the contents of the letter his son retrieves from the relic contains an alarming amount of answers regarding a half-century’s worth of disasters. The film centers upon a grieving man’s struggle to thwart the inevitable effects of certain disaster.
Who’s It For?: Difficult to peg. Nicholas Cage fans are routinely taken on tangential rides where their favorite actor jumps from exploring think-pieces [Adaptation] to blockbusting fluff [Bangkok Dangerous]. As one of the world’s more relevant movie stars, Cage needed an intelligent, thought-provoking feature to bring his star back into focus. This is a film made for those hoping Cage has reacquainted himself with his muse.
Expectations: A buzz film. Very little has surfaced regarding plot, or relative expectations. Director Alex Proyas brought us I, Robot, so the verdict will be out until opening weekend.
Nicolas Cage as John Koestler: Cage is an enigmatic figurehead atop Hollywood’s Mt. Rushmore of super superstardom. He routinely picks films that befuddle more than they garner acclaim from his critics. Even in trivial Hollywood fluff, however, he has always provided us with engaging roles. Recently, he’s bucked the trend of “practice makes perfect,” and has overproduced a slew of rampantly awful films that hardly showcase the insane amount of talent brewing beneath the vintage Cage-grimace. As Koestler, the only thing less authentic than his uncannily re-emerging hairline is his visibly hollow performance. This is a role that required a great deal of skill to convey any amount of realism. Cage has the chops, but squanders his chance to reestablish himself as one of Hollywood’s most charismatic leading men. Score: 5
Rose Byrne as Diana Wayland: Though she’s only onscreen for roughly half the film, Byrne knows how to act without speaking. She’s asked to conjure up a past that never feels authentically jarring. Her mother’s tragic life is at the epicenter of the plot line, and you just never feel Diana’s all that shaken by the story. As a result, the Australian siren over-acts in order to portray a more shuddering experience for the audience. It comes off as forced, and hardly beneficial to a film that has a difficult enough time staying afloat on its own. Score: 5
Chandler Canterbury as Caleb Koestler: Leave it to a 10-year-old to shoulder the weight of a film whose loaded plot nearly sinks the story entirely. Canterbury knows how to act. You can sense his gift in the large amount of screen time he spends not speaking. You can’t teach this aspect of the art, and this young man was born with it. He owns Cage in the time they share together onscreen, and it’s not even close. Great comic timing, charisma (but not too much, as is a fault of kids who can’t act), and an innate ability to garner sympathetic “awws,” from the audience without displaying the cop-out “puppy dog eyes.” Best part of the film. Score: 9
Talking: The script isn’t necessarily a lost cause. The trouble is, the actors largely muff the delivery, and spend most of their time scrambling to find deeper meaning in the words they’re saying than are actually there. Cage stymies the pace enough to render the film’s cadence stagnant. Interpersonal relationships (like Joe’s ailing relationship with his Priest-father) possess fractions of the baggage the subtext insinuates, and you can’t tell why you’re supposed to care about the sense of loss all characters are collectively feeling. Score: 5
Sights The best aspects of this film are its visual delights. A few shocking situations come out of nowhere and shake you in your seat. However, at the film’s conclusion, we are presented with an epiphany of anti-climax. You’ll see. You’ll see. Score: 5
Sounds: The soundtrack is overwritten for a film that falls so short of its potential. It's highly engrossing original music that nearly touches a nerve or two before the film itself strips that feeling away from the audience. Score: 7
Best Scene: Once John Koestler figures out the significance of the “mystery numbers,” he witnesses a catastrophic disaster first hand, and so do we. It’s the highlight of the film in the visual sense. While its obvious CGI is utilized to create the moment, it’s not less authentic than the arid-dry acting most of the film “boasts.”
Ending: When Cage is “reunited” with his estranged father/family, you’d think you would get a little choked up. Nothing of the sort happens, and as the world melts around them it’s a general feeling of emptiness that ensues. Cage has lost his on-screen son, and the sun is swallowed up the entire human race. You’re supposed to cry. You’re supposed to have questions. Neither happens, and you’re better for it.
OVERALL In an economically anemic society, escapism is quickly becoming the national pastime. Knowing is a loosely thrown together slew of ideas that work in vastly intermittent moments. These tiny “bright spots” are overshadowed by a largely underachieving cinematic debacle that leaves its audience wondering if the phrase, “killing time,” indeed has a new meaning. Films like these are released amidst an ambitious marketing schemes that remind everyone they may be in store for the greatest movie ever made. Blockbusters are becoming a dime a dozen. There’s more irony in this sentiment than meets the eye. This film will take in $100 million, eventually. But the product is hardly worth such a significant amount of money, especially in this dire-straights fiscal market we know today. Instead of touching the collective nerve of American, and allowing them to forget about their own problems, and invest in those of fictitious heroes and villains, they are subject to experiencing a film that tries to reach for the Heavens, but never can get off the ground.
Final Score: 5/10