The secret of “Knowing” is that it’s three movies woven together. The first is about an hour long, and is a creepy, moody, dreary movie about determinism and free will. The second is 30 minutes of disaster movie, with stunning effects happening at breakneck speed.
The remaining half hour is a Sci-Fi Channel Original movie, with choppy editing, bad acting and no idea on what it wants to be. Despite the first two aspects, the third aspect rears its head at in appropriate times and basically ruins the movie.
The story is simple: Man finds a note that says the world is going to end, and then man tries to stop the world from ending. Can’t get anymore generic and action movie-esque than that, but “Knowing” takes this straightforward idea and spins it in the right ways.
You have the hero (Nicholas Cage) who has a piece of paper showing every major tragedy, but the last three dates on the list haven’t happened yet. The kicker is that the last one is the end of the world. Now he spends the rest of the film trying to figure out what could possibly cause the end of the world, and even if he figures it out, will it matter?
There’s where the first aspect of the movie come in. Determinism is the idea that everything that happens is predetermined, and that even your act to deny determinism is merely just an act of determinism. That’s pretty deep territory for a Nicholas Cage movie, but it’s tackled very well. The question of “Are we able to influence anything, or is it all going by some cosmic or religious script?” is brought up constantly, and illustrated deeply in the movie. So now we have a man trying to save himself and his family from certain disaster, knowing that he can’t change the outcome. The numbers are written down and thus far have been flawless. Why should he be able to change the future? Even if he tries to save people, was that calculated in by the mystical numbers or did he deny fate? These deep philosophical questions are not things I was expecting out of this movie.
The second aspect is the most familiar to Hollywood: Action. There are four major action sequences in this movie. Transportation takes a bad rap here, as the incidents involve a car, a train, and a plane. The fourth is the end of the movie, which I won’t spoil, but does actually involve some form of transportation too. The big special effects scene in the film is the plane scene in which (SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS) a plane crashes into a traffic jam. It’s a single shot, which follows Cage, running from his truck over to the remains, trying to save people. It’s truly a miraculous shot and one of the best I’ve ever seen. I won’t spoil the end but the scene looks a bit cheesy, but it’s hard to pull someone off on that scale attempted.
Now after all that praise, here comes the part that destroys an otherwise good movie. We’re not talking 30 straight minutes of bad. If that was the case, I could just go get some popcorn, take a trip to the bathroom and chat up the girl at the front counter while waiting for the pain to be over. It’s not that easy. Five minute bursts here and there of poorly done filmmaking ruin the tension, the atmosphere and sometimes the story.
“Knowing” also contains two of my big hates in movies. First is the Shyamalan ending, in which they throw around red herrings all movie, then tack on a twist ending. The shock value wears off quick, and you feel confused on why they didn’t go with the hundreds of better ends they hinted at. The second big peeve of mine is a man losing all his faith over the death of a loved one. Its clichƒ© and insulting, with religious believers being shown to have weak convictions and atheists always being portrayed as scornful. It’s just overdone and bad story telling.
Overall, the movie had a decent shot, but it fell far short. It feels like “Signs 2: This time with Nic Cage”. The ideas and atmosphere are all there, but it tried to cram too much in. It danced around, unable to decide whether it was a movie about aliens, religion, philosophy or just an action movie. It never knew what it was. The ending was wrong, and directors need to stop looking for “Raising Arizona” Cage, because he’s not ever coming back.
Not everything was bad and there was a lot to build on. You’ll never hear me say this again, but I want a remake of a movie. Twenty years down the road, I want them remaking this and learning from its flaws, because the story is strong but the overall product is weak. They would be better off knowing not to cast aging stars and not to jam every possible theme in. And Knowing is half the battle.