Roger Ebert, a critic I admire a great deal, has received a lot of flack over his 4-star review of the movie Knowing. Review aggregating website RottenTomatoes.com shows that only 32% of published critical reviews were positive, with the general consensus stating "Knowing has some interesting ideas and a couple good scenes, but it's weighted down by its absurd plot and over-seriousness." Well, the movie is about a man finding a sheet of paper that predicts the end of the world. It's a sort of disaster movie, of course it's ridiculous. And since it deals with the apocalypse, I would hope it would be over-serious. Do we really want apocalyptic movies any other way?
The movie kicks off with an elementary school class in 1959 creating a time capsule full of their drawings of what they think the future will be like, to be opened 50 years later. We see little Lucinda (an effectively creepy Lara Robinson), whose contribution to the time capsule is a page covered in numbers. Cut to 2009, where Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) is part of the elementary school class that gets to open up the time capsule, and he is the one that receives Lucinda's paper. His father John (Nicolas Cage) starts looking at the paper one night and notices the group of numbers 91101, or 9-11-01, with a number beside it that happens to be the number of lives lost on that day. He begins going through the paper, front and back, and finding dates and lives lost of many tragedies that've happened over the last 50 years, including 3 that will happen over the next few days. John also gets in contact with the now deceased Lucinda's daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby (also played by Lara Robinson, though less creepy this time).
The movie was directed by Australian visual virtuoso Alex Proyas, who directed one of my favorite movies, Dark City. The visuals here are less impressive than they were there, but there is a tremendous plane crash that was obviously influenced by Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, as it's a single take of the crash and its destructive aftermath, with Nic Cage wandering through the chaos. I think Proyas keeps the first two acts of the movie believable enough that we're invested enough in what is happening to go along with the "ridiculousness" of the final act. It's a bit difficult to review the ending of the movie, since it really requires a back and forth discussion, but I'll just say that it worked for me. There are a lot of religious evocations happening that I think turned some people off, but all of it was well done, and I thought very effective.
I feel like many people didn't give this movie a fair shot due to the presence of Nicolas Cage. He's done such a vast amount of shit over the last few years that I think most people had a pre-existing prejudice against this movie just because of his recent track record. Because of my previous love of Alex Proyas's movies (not just Dark City, but also The Crow, and I even enjoyed I, Robot despite its many flaws) I looked at Knowing as an Alex Proyas project that happened to star Nic Cage, which is what it was. I'm saddened that many people didn't give the movie a chance, Cage isn't as great as he's been in the past (Adaptation., Bringing Out the Dead, Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, the man's given us a lot of great performances), but he's good enough to not ruin the story, and the other actors are at about the same level. No one is great, other than young Lara Robinson, but nobody ruins anything either. This movie is more about the story, no matter how ridiculous, and how well it works. I thought it worked tremendously.