Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Nicholas Cage, Rose
Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, Lara Robinson
Director: Alex Proyas
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Stereo 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: July 7, 2009
“What happens when the numbers run out?”
I think I learned something about myself while viewing Knowing, the latest offering from visionary director Alex Proyas. And that is, I don’t think I tend to like end-of-the-world movies. To my knowledge, before now, I don’t know believe I’ve ever given a favorable review to one. I’m guessing it’s probably that I’m religious by nature, and that I tend to take the Book of Revelation seriously, which most of the movie industry does not.
That being said, Proyas has managed to take a troublesome area and deliver quality entertainment, as well as one of the more intelligently open views of science fiction in a long time; possibly since 2001. By that, I mean that the movie naturally lends itself to interpretation based on the individual foci of the viewers. Whether you view such events with an eye for religion, science, or philosophy, there is affirmation for all.
Nicholas Cage plays John Koestler, a professor at MIT who poses a wide-reaching question to his students: is the universe deterministic (planned and logical), or random? John seems to be in the latter category; his wife passed away and he is now raising their young son Caleb (Canterbury) alone.
But that’s the present day. As the film opens, we are fifty years in the past, and students from Caleb’s eventual school are preparing a time capsule of what the future will look like. For most, it involves crayon drawings of rocket ships and flying cars, but for one tormented little girl named Lucinda Embry (Robinson), it is line after line of numbers, filling a couple of pages.
It is Caleb who gets Lucinda’s strange scribbling, but it is John who notices something in the seeming disarray of numeric characters. I don’t want to delve too much into the mechanics, but John begins to believe that in Lucinda’s numbers were predictions of major world events. Numerology is a fascinating but largely panned study, and even John’s colleagues warn of trying to ascribe meaning to numbers where there is none. But it can’t be a coincidence…can it?
His quest leads John to Lucinda’s offspring, Diana (Byrne) and her daughter Abby (Robinson again). It turns out, as we saw, Lucinda’s paper was taken before she could finish…was there one final clue? And does it have something to do with the quiet strangers that seem to be watching over them all?
I will tread no further, though the original movie ads gave away more than I’m doing here. I will only say that yes, as you expected, all of these strange occurrences are pointing toward the possible end of the world. And Proyas directs it all with a sense of purpose; the movie is thrilling, and boasts two, if not three, of the most intense special effects sequences I’ve ever come across. You will be rocked back in your seat.
It all comes down to the ending, which I won’t divulge, but apparently for many fans, was a deal breaker. But as mentioned, be you religious or scientific in nature, you can probably find something in the way the film concludes that proves you are right in your views. And if you’re philosophical, well…the entire film manages to thrill while engaging in a debate on that level. How many films offer that kind of experience?
In other words, no, I wasn’t entirely satisfied, but going back to my original point, I think I’ve accepted the fact that I will never be completely placated with any world-ending scenario that a movie can think to throw my way. Still, Alex Proyas has delivered a vision that merits consideration despite any qualms I have of either logic or faith.
Even the title is intriguing…Knowing. The Bible says no man knows the hour, but what if we did…what then, exactly?
This is a superior high definition transfer from Summit. There are many darker sequences, but like lighter ones, they ring out with a purity and clarity of imagery, with amazing detail and no grain or compression evident. The colors are natural, and every frame is filled with solid definition from front to back.
This disc boasts one of the year’s most explosive and dynamic tracks, and the reason being is that unlike many CGI thrillers, this one has only three real major usage of effects, so instead of a constant bombardment of audio, you get moments of incredible potency that really stand out against the more subtle and ambient stretches. Dialogue and music are both clearly delivered, and the full effect of the surrounds and subwoofer make the film immersive at just the right moments.
The disc includes a commentary from Alex Proyas, in which he mostly engages in conversation with a host whose name I didn’t catch. There is also a making-of featurette and a look at the ‘end of the world’ as it has been perceived throughout the ages.
It’s the end of the world as we know it…but thanks to this quality Blu-ray from Summit, you can at least experience it with superior high definition video and sound. Knowing is a solid and smart offering from Alex Proyas that may only misstep in the way so many other apocalyptic movies do…and even then, in far fewer instances.