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With: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, D.G. Maloney, Lara Robinson, Nadia Townsend, Alan Hopgood, Adrienne Pickering, Joshua Long, Danielle Carter, Alethea McGrath, David Lennie, Tamara Donnellan, Travis Waite, Ben Mendelsohn
Written by: Ryne Pearson, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White, Stuart Hazeldine, Alex Proyas, based on a story by Ryne Pearson
Directed by: Alex Proyas
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language
Running Time: 122
Date: 03/09/2009

Knowing (2009)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Numbers Racket

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'd like to think that when director Alex Proyas started working on Knowing, it was a small, smart film like his Dark City (1998). Then Nicolas Cage came on board, and it became bigger and dumber. But rather than becoming a comfortable hybrid between a small, smart movie and a big, dumb movie, Knowing became a horrible mutation, bulging out in all the wrong places. Now the movie's ideas no longer flow from one to the other; sometimes they make huge leaps and other times they just fizzle out. And the movie's big, dumb elements come in all the wrong places; they provide lots of anxiety but little relief.

The movie starts in 1959, when the students of an elementary school decide to bury a time capsule filled with drawings. One creepy little girl, Lucinda (Lara Robinson), covers her page with numbers. Fifty years later, Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) gets the paper and his father, John (Cage), discovers it. John happens to be a professor, and he notices that some of the numbers coincide with 9/11 and the number of people killed. He starts searching and discovers that all the numbers point to the dates of disasters and the exact number of victims. Of course, at the end of the list, there are three disasters left yet to occur, and the final one looks to be very, very big. So John goes running off to the first two disasters, thinking he can somehow help. He also tracks down Lucinda's grown daughter, Diana (Rose Byrne) and little granddaughter (also played by Lara Robinson), in the hopes that they can help. They provide a few more clues, but perhaps even more dead ends.

Early in the film, John lectures his appreciative class on the difference between order and coincidence. Is there some purpose to life, or is everything just a series of random accidents? I think it's hugely problematic to make movies around the latter idea, since so many movies depend on achieving goals, making discoveries, learning lessons or at the very least finding beauty, hope or faith -- even more so if you're making a "big, dumb" movie. If a brave filmmaker decides to try something in this vein, it would be a great deal more effective to make one of those "small, smart" movies. It's too bad that, whatever numbers lined up to allow Proyas to make Dark City did not do so again.

Best Buy Co, Inc.