Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Nicolas Cage stars as John Koestler in Knowing, a gripping action-thriller of global proportions about a professor who stumbles on terrifying predictions about the future—and sets out to prevent them from coming true.

That’s it. I am officially through with Nicolas Cage. I accepted his decision to make entertaining fluff like the “National Treasure” movies. I even tolerated that execrable “Wicker Man” remake because I thought his performance (along with the rest of the film) might have been a joke. With “Knowing” it has become clear that the movies themselves aren’t the joke. Cage’s career is. Instead of building on his 1995 Academy Award for “Leaving Las Vegas,” he has wasted most of his time giving bad performances in worse movies. With only a couple of minor exceptions, Cage’s post-Oscar output has been abysmal. Knowing takes this trend to its own special level. Directed by “Dark City’s” Alex Proyas (who has also seen better career days) this is a strange, scatterbrained hybrid of disaster movie and theologically minded science fiction. It’s like “The Happening” with math. 1958: As the dedication ceremony for a newly constructed elementary school gets underway, a time capsule containing student drawings of the future is buried on the grounds and scheduled to be unearthed on the school's fiftieth anniversary. Instead of submitting a drawing, however, one little girl (Lara Robinson) scribbles a series of seemingly random numbers on her paper before it is buried. Fifty years later, the time capsule is unearthed for a new generation of students to examine. Young Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) is one of those students. The mysterious sequence of numbers falling into his possession, Caleb takes the paper to his father, Professor John Koestler (Cage) for examination. Studying the numbers, Professor Koestler soon discovers that they aren't random at all, but an encoded message containing the precise dates, death tolls, and coordinates of every major disaster since the time capsule was buried. Not only that, but the document also indicates that there will be three more such events, the last of which indicates a doomsday scenario that appears directly tied to Professor Koestler and Caleb. His desperate plea to authorities falling on deaf ears, Professor Koestler realizes that his only hope for preventing more lives from being lost is to take personal action. Though the author of the prophecies is no longer living, Professor Koestler is eventually able to track down her daughter Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne), and granddaughter Abby (also Lara Robinson), who reluctantly agree to aid in the investigation. As the final date on the list draws near, Professor Koestler enters into a frantic race against time to prevent destruction on a global scale, in the process realizing that in order to save millions of lives, he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice. Knowing doesn't blend genres so much as partition them and present them separately, in an odd film that becomes less effective every time it shifts gears. The movie begins as a surprisingly good mystery with supernatural elements, devolves into an adventure that you wouldn't rush out to see but might stick with if you caught it while channel-surfing cable before finally giving up the ghost as a special-effects-laden sci-fi head-scratcher. It's a shame, really, as director Alex Proyas gets a better performance out of Nicolas Cage than we've seen in ages. But Knowing eventually collapses under the weight of its ever-changing story. Proyas and the four credited screenwriters take a potentially clever idea and run backward with it, filling the movie with clumsy plotting and laughably bad dialogue. The characters’ actions make no sense, leaving Cage and his co-stars to fill the void with amateurish overacting. Some creepy sequences involve pale figures who could have walked off the “Dark City” set. The disasters are intense and creatively staged, offering some elaborate stunts we haven’t seen before. Actually, there are a lot of things in Knowing we haven’t seen before, but the stunts are the only good ones. The rest of the movie — especially the endless ending — is almost too ridiculous to process.In other words, it’s just like everything else Cage has done lately. And I’m through with it. A Saddened 2 on my "Go See" scale.

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