DVD Review: Knowing
Release Date: July 7, 2009
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
· Alex Proyas
· Nicolas Cage
· Rose Byrne
· Chandler Canterbury
· Lara Robinson
· IMDb: Knowing
by R.J. Carter
Published: July 6, 2009
Alex Proyas's "Knowing" is one of those films that, while you're watching it, keeps you distracted with enough action and intrigue so that, when the credits roll, you're sure you've just seen something very cerebral (and you're proud of yourself in no small way that you followed it all). And, for the most part, that is all true enough -- until you begin to apply things like thought to the plot, usually occurring when you're recounting the details to someone else.
Nicolas Cage portrays MIT professor John Koestler, an astronomer and widower who raises his only son in a ramshackle country farmhouse. His son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), comes into possession of a note left in his elementary school time capsule fifty years prior by a sad and disturbed little girl named Lucinda (played by Lara Robinson). It's this note that serves as the plot MacGuffin as John recognizes the sequence of numbers as dates, locations, and casualty counts -- each set representing a catastrophe over the last five decades, each one eerily accurate.
Naturally, the inclination of the viewer is to wonder what the note ultimately warns of, and how is John going to stave off the ultimate calamity? After all, what purpose is the note if not to prove that the writer knows whereof he speaks to establish credibility for the disasters yet to come? Alas, it is at this juncture where things fall apart -- the centre cannot hold -- and Koestler recognizes that everything is, indeed, the unleashing of mere anarchy. But while he is perhaps helpless to handle things in this physical world despite "knowing" what's coming, the film's title applies more metaphysically to his struggle with what comes after life -- a struggle he's had since his wife died, and one that has led to his many years of estrangement from his father, a Christian pastor.
To be sure, "Knowing" dazzles the viewer with special effects, but when you reach the ending you cannot help but realize the futility of the entire plot. The resolution -- such as it is -- completely negates any need for the note to have ever been left all those years ago, as it involves "all-knowing aliens" who, upon reflection, are perhaps about as lacking in tactical capabilities as those in M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs." "Knowing" is a brilliant story idea ruined by basic logic.
The DVD release of "Knowing" includes an audio commentary with Proyas, as well as two bonus documentaries. The fifteen-minute "Knowing All: The Making of a Futuristic Thriller" (although there was nothing futuristic about the story at all as it occurs in a contemporary setting) includes interview segments with Proyas, Canterbury, and Rose Byrne (who plays Cage's not-quite-romantic entanglement in the film) and Lara Robinson (who doubles as Lucinda all those years ago, and Abby, Lucinda's granddaughter). The spot focuses largely on the creation of the plane crash scene, but also features some interesting bits on Robinson transitioning between the two personas she represents on screen. The eighteen-minute "Visions of the Apocalypse" is a set of scientific discussions about how the world -- and, particularly, the sun -- could end.
Previews on this disc include "Push," "Astro Boy," and "The Brothers Bloom."