FANTASY MOVIE REVIEW: "Knowing" with Nicolas Cage

Sam White
Sam White's picture

I went into “Knowing” not “knowing” what it was about. Not really, anyway. The commercials made me think it was going to be a slightly harsher version of the “National Treasure” movies. After all, it features Nicolas Cage as a guy that (it seemed from the commercials) was going to be running everywhere to find clues about some sort of mystery.

Aside from Mister Cage, the similarities to the “NT” movies are virtually nil. In fact, this is definitely an “OT” movie. [Ha! Just a little biblical humor there you might understand after you’ve seen the movie.]

Cage plays John Gates—I mean—John Koestler, a brilliant physics teacher who seems a bit cynical (in the way Robin Williams is a “bit manic” on stage) and really only cares about one thing in life: his son Caleb. It seems John’s wife—Caleb’s mom—died about a year ago in a freak hotel fire and, since then, preacher’s kid John has turned his back on his parents and any sort of faith and has come to the conclusion that the universe is just a place where random s**t happens. (Pardon me, but that’s the way the movie expresses it—more than once.)

But then, Caleb, a sensitive but hearing-challenged boy, gets a piece of paper from the school time capsule that looks to just be a random bunch of numbers. John Koestler starts looking at the numbers one evening while drunk (he’s often drunk, in a convincing, morose, way—not an Otis Campbell way) and realizes the numbers provide dates and death tolls for tragedies that took place during the 50 years the time capsule was sealed in the ground.

How could a troubled little girl from 50 years ago have known all these terrible things were going to happen? And more confusing—or, at least, more troubling—her numbers seem to indicate that there are 3 more events to come. Can John stop the events and save lives? Or, is the universe just a cruel place where you-know-what happens no matter what someone might know ahead of time or try to do?

“Knowing” is not really a sci-fi movie but it probably could be considered “fantasy” and since the deputy-undersecretary of Poo-Bahism here at Republibot is always asking me to review stuff (and this is the first movie I’ve seen in theaters since the incredible and underappreciated “Inkheart”), I thought I could review this one here.

But you could go to a million places on the web (OK, a million-point-two) to read a review of this movie, so I wanted to do something—I hope—a little different.

I think this is supposed to be one of those movies that make you “think.” The kind of movie the movie-makers are hoping you will leave talking to your neighbors (or invisible friends, there were a lot of single, creepy people at this movie when I went to the OPENING SHOW in Amarillo) and saying things like, “Do you think that’s really happening?” “Could that really happen?” and “Chili’s or Applebee’s?”

The main thing it made me think was, “I wonder what he was driving at?” It’s an exciting movie with great special effects and a great cast, but—without giving away too many spoilers (which you’ve probably already read about somewhere else)—it is a story about the end of the world and how someone might react/act if they knew the exact day and time the world was going to end.

And, while the movie makes some references to the Biblical book of Ezekiel, it’s left to the audience to decide (I guess) whether Ezekiel saw what he thought he saw or something else. What’s troubling some Christians, though, is that a] there’s really no mention of God in this movie or of a Christian theology and 2] there’s no mention of the book of Revelation. I applaud the producers of this movie for that second issue because Hollywood ALWAYS screws up Revelation, and especially since the oh-too-recent glut of “Left Behind/Over” schlock that was such a fad recently and led to an incredible amount of poor eschatology even by people who should have known better. [Author’s note: I think Revelation has far less to do with the “end times” than is popularly assumed and is, rather, the spiritual history of the whole world—with spoilers.]

Another surprising thing about this movie is that there aren’t really any bad guys. [That’s sort of a spoiler alert, but you won’t know what I mean by that until you see it.] The police, the military, even the NTSB … just when you think they might be cast as the bad guys, they aren’t. They’re just people doing their job.

In fact, everyone in this movie is just doing their job. Including the actors. Nicolas Cage is as famous as he is because he—generally—plays pretty subdued characters. The problem with this movie is that everyone else—with the exception of Rose Byrne toward the end of the movie—is trying to out-subdue Cage. The movie is supposed to be a tense thriller, but I think it would have been a more tense thriller if we had gotten the idea that someone—anyone—was panicked or distraught about what was going on. Cage’s character had the excuse of all that alcohol having mellowed him out, but somewhere—offstage—everyone else was taking valium.

Still, it’s a fun movie to watch. So go see it and then come back and tell me what the heck you think it was about because I have no idea.