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Knowing (2009)

Imagine finding a document that predicted every natural disaster for the last fifty years. Imagine seeing proof that it’s for real. Now imagine that the number sequence ends in a few days. What happens when the numbers run out?

Knowing is a science fiction film directed by Alex Proyas. It stars Nicholas “Face/Off” Cage, Rose “28 Weeks Later” Byrne, Chandler “Se7en” Canterbury, Laura “Saved” Robinson, Nadia “Danny Deckchair” Townsend, Ben “Vertical Limit” Mendelsohn, Alan “My Brilliant Career” Hopgood, Adrienne “Shutter” Pickering, and Liam “Triangle” Hemsworth. The film was originally written by novelist Ryne Douglas Pearson.

In 1959, a young girl named Lucinda Embry stands in the playground, hearing whispers from an unknown source and staring into the sun so intently that she does not hear the teacher calling the students in from recess. Later, as the students are drawing pictures of what they think the future will be like to place into a time capsule that will be buried for fifty years, Lucinda covers a sheet of paper with a series of seemingly random numbers, though her teacher takes it away before she is done. Later, after the capsule is buried, Lucinda disappears, only to be found later in a closet, having clawed at the door until her fingernails are torn out. Fifty years later, John Koestler, a widowed MIT astrophysicist, talks with his son Caleb about the likelihood of life on other planets, leading to speculations on where Caleb’s mother (who died a year ago) currently is. The next day, Koestler discusses determinism vs. randomness with his class. Caleb, attending the same school that Lucinda attended fifty years before, is present for the opening of the time capsule and receives the sheet of paper that Lucinda covered with numbers half a century before. He sees a mysterious black-clad stranger staring at him and hears whispering; it is implied that he has been hearing the whispering for some time, as he wears a hearing aid due to hearing “confusing noises”. At home, Koestler finds Lucinda’s paper in Caleb’s things and examines the numbers, noticing the sequence 911012996 among them. He looks up the September 11 terrorist attack and quickly sees that the numbers include the date and number of deaths: 9/11/01/2996. After a sleepless night of research, Koestler discovers that every sequence of numbers can be matched to a disaster from the last fifty years, and it appears to have predicted every single one. However, there are numbers between the dates that he cannot figure out, and there are three dates remaining on the page, taking place in the immediate future.

Koestler, looking into the apparent predictions, tries to find Lucinda but learns that she recently died of a drug overdose. Caleb is visited by more black-clad strangers, and shown visions of destruction. Koestler, on his way to pick up Caleb from school, has a plane almost crash right on top of him, apparently predicted by the next sequence of numbers, and realizes the mystery numbers are GPS coordinates. He tries to recruit Lucinda’s grown daughter for help, racing against time to try to avert the other disasters predicted by the rest of the numbers (and witnessing a horrifying subway crash as one of the trains jumps the rails), until he learns the chilling truth about the final sequence of numbers…

I wasn’t too sure about Knowing when I rented it. I’d heard reviews ranging from lukewarm to negative, but the premise sounded interesting and I’d seen Nicholas Cage is some good movies. The trouble was, I’d also seen him in some bad movies, but it was only a dollar through Redbox, so what the hell. The overall impression I got was if M. Night Shyamalan decided to remake Final Destination. The idea that thinsg like these had been predetermined was chilling, especially paired with the absolute knowledge that they could not be stopped, but this was mitigated slightly by the discovery that somebody – or something was trying to lessen the tragedy to the best of their ability. The acting was a little hit and miss, especially towards the end, and some of the special effects were also a bit iffy, particularly the CGI plane crash (which was not made too much less chilling for all that, I mean, they dropped a plane on a traffic jam). However, the visuals toward the end were quite impressive, and the reveal of the true nature of the strangers was absolutely beautiful.

While I was not quite as wowed by this movie as I have been by others with apocalyptic themes, this was worth renting. Nicholas Cage was mostly effective as the traumatized widower and tortured dad, and the premise was sound. So, if you’re in the mood for something thought-provoking and pretty, keep this one in mind. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth watching.

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