Strangeness from the Twilight Zone


20 March 2009| No Comments on Knowing     by Sean Chavel


Treads a thin line between good and bad. Knowing is a triumph in special effects and camera angles and a letdown in story plausibility even for out-there concepts. Science-fiction in this case is alternately preposterous and thought-provoking. As well as obliterating, oh cool! The director is Alex Proyas who made the best science-fiction film of the last 25 years (“Dark City”) and also made a dumbed-down Will Smith action vehicle that at least had stellar production values (“I Robot”). What he works with here is a story as naïve but as intriguing as a classic “Twilight Zone” episode that happens to contain awesome sequences of destruction. Some elements, however, might annoy you.

The pre-credit sequence, which is absent of any big unleashed special effects, is among the best parts of the movie because it works most effectively as gasping don’t-look-now spookiness. It’s 1959, and an elementary school class is assigned to draw pictures of what they imagine the future will look life in 50 years forward. The drawings will be enclosed in a time capsule to be opened in 2009. A haunted little girl composes a sheet of endless and seemingly random numbers as if she is possessed by the supernatural beyond. She goes missing on school grounds following the burial ceremony of the time capsules. When she is found her reappearance provokes…  it’s scare-you-silly repulsion!

In present day Nicolas Cage stars as John Koestler, a professor of astrophysics at MIT.  He moderates an in-class discussion on whether the universe is deterministic or random.  The film, which is concerned about being more than just an action flick, delves into whether a man like Koestler can make a difference in altering destiny.

The film returns to the same elementary school where the story began. At the reopening of the time capsule the drawings the sealed in envelopes are parceled out to current students in present day. Koestler’s son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) receives the odd diagram of numbers that when closely inspected contains an eerie pattern. The numbers formulate a catalog of all major disasters that have occurred in the last 50 years that list date, death tally, latitude and longitude. Three future disasters are prophesized. Koestler’s closest colleague (Ben Mendelsohn) thinks he’s off his rocker until the first disaster proves true.

Prophecy number 3 is a forecast of the end of the world. Concurrently, Caleb is visited by ominous strangers in black coat attire that undeniably recalls a certain previous Proyas film. However, these supernatural-beings feel tacked-on, as if the film was desperate to stack on another layer of menace. Lastly, there is a late entrance introduction of two characters, Diana (Rose Byrne) and her daughter, whom unwittingly hold the clues to Earth’s outcome.

The disaster blow-ups are really something special with camera angles that I’ve never seen used before in smash-up collision and firestorm sequences. And the final scenes of the film Proyas delivers a scorcher of astonishing visual power. Although I wished we didn’t have to endure a shot of Cage driving uncontested through streets that would be undoubtedly be riddled by roadblocks. If you hate You-Gotta-Be-Kidding-Me! moments in movies than “Knowing” might be too tough for you to swallow.

“Knowing” is a question mark for ordinary audiences – some will jump aboard and others will likely balk at its preposterousness. But then there is a more specific audience out there who know who the director is. You Alex Proyas admirers out there know who you are. You’ve seen “Dark City” and you’ve seen “I, Robot” and you share a resembled agreement with me that one is a masterpiece and the other is far, far from. What you need to know about “Knowing” is that it falls somewhere in the middle of those two.

121 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964); “Dark City” 1998); “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004); “Sunshine” (2007).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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