In 1959, an elementary school buries a time capsule that holds drawings of what the kids think the world will be like in 50 years. When the capsule is dug up in present day, each child is given a drawing from the capsule. The drawing that Caleb Koestler gets isn't a drawing at all. Instead, it's a page full of random numbers. When Caleb takes the paper home, his astrophysicist father stumbles upon the discovery that the numbers seem to have predicted the dates of major disasters which occurred in the 50 years since. Not only the dates, but the number of victims from each incident as well. A fascinating discovery, but more important matters lie hidden in the numbers, as there are three dates and three major disasters to come... and they're coming soon.
"Knowing" is more ambitious than a typical disaster movie. Not really a surprise coming from director Alex Proyas. The closest he's come to generic is "I, Robot", by far his weakest work. While certain plot points may be hard to swallow for some, I had no qualms with any of it. Of course, I fully expected the film to be bashed unmercifully by many just because Nicolas Cage is in it. I know people like to criticize Cage every chance they get, but his acting is just fine here. Some of the tender moments between he and his son were actually quite effective from an emotional standpoint. Reading through several of the reviews I've seen, it's clear that some people just have a hate-on for the guy. My girl Rose Byrne shows up halfway through the picture, and while her character is that of a tortured woman relegated to looking distraught and flipping out, she does both well. Her panic at the gas station brought a smile to my face, as I just love watching her work.
Proyas handles the suspense exceptionally, particularly the buildup to the various disasters. The screws turn slowly, but ever so tightly. As for the disasters themselves, the scene with the crashing airliner is wicked in it's execution. Shot in the pouring down rain and all in one take, we witness the crash followed by Cage sulking amidst explosions, burning rubble and burning passengers. The subway sequence isn't as effective. Not even close, really, but the build makes up for it. The final disaster, which I won't spoil here, is positively fantastic both in buildup and execution. One scene in relation to the final disaster involves a discovery on the bottom of a bed. I felt that this scene made for a very strong gut punch, just well-done all around in leading up to it, music, everything. Chaos aside, I also liked some of the human touches that Proyas threw in. Caleb watching a video of his mother singing him a lullaby is a really strong little character moment in the midst of everything else going on. I also thought Cage's reaction was well-played.
Now for some faults. The score could be overpowering at times. I also feel that the final scene was not needed. The line about starting over was enough to get the point across, I didn't need to see it. More subtlety would have been most welcome, and ending the film with the earth in cinders would make for a more potent final image. Aside from that, the worst I can say is that some of the acting from bit players was rather on the weak side.
Overall, I was very satisfied with the final product. It could have used some tweaking here and there, but most films are flawed in some way or another. The twists in the storyline won't work for everyone. It seems a lot of the time when a new film tries to shoe in aliens or any sort of spirituality aspect, it gets branded as some sort of new age crap. I don't subscribe to that thought process. I think it's a strong piece of filmmaking from a filmmaker who doesn't work as often as he should. The masses can have their popcorn films, but I like my popcorn with a few extra layers of butter on top.