This Code of Numbers Spells Disaster
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Rose Byrne
By Tom Bevis
Nicholas Cage has a filthy rap sheet. Sure, he’s got some good films under his belt, movies like Raising Arizona and Adaptation, but he’s also got Ghost Rider’s and National Treasure’s in abundance. So, this guy has shown us he’s got gall. But he’s also shown us that he picks his film roles like a hooker picks her johns: whoever’s paying the most. Sadly to say, Knowing isn’t a notch that’s going to end up on Cage’s good belt.
For those of you anticipating a HIGH OCTANE ACTION FILM, put your motorcycle helmets away. The film plays out more like a watered-down thriller, but all of the twists and secrets are more predictable than the dialog in a Pauly Shore film. In short, a man, John Koestler (Cage), gets a list of numbers from his son who got them from a time capsule who got them from a young girl who heard voices and stared at the sun.
Through a string of lucky coincidences – he sets his coffee cup down on the list and magically circles the numbers 9/11, and that spurs curiosity – Koestler realizes that the list of numbers spells out what we all knew was coming: our eminent doom. He decodes this seemingly random list of numbers in one night, chiefly due to luck and coincidence. This is interesting because the whole film plays with the idea of chaos versus order in the world: coincidence or divine organization.
This film is riddled with fallacies in logic, but let’s set those aside and look at what matters. The filmmakers seem to have trouble narrowing down their scope. There were a lot of different themes they wanted to run with, and instead of choosing the most powerful to run with and tossing the rest in the backseat, they chose them all. Order versus chaos. Religion versus science. Destiny versus volition. Acting versus reading a script. There are simply too many eggs in the basket, and that makes the film look choppy and poorly organized. By the end of the film, the audience is still unsure exactly which path the film advocates. We can infer it’s either both, or it’s neither.
Let’s talk about the acting, because this is usually a two-sided blade with Mr. Cage. We’ve seen what he can do in, say, Adaptation, where he simultaneously portrayed a cynical Hollywood writer and a naïve, over-ambitious party-crasher. We’ve also seen what he probably shouldn’t do too often as a tight-armed car thief in Gone in Sixty Seconds. I don’t want to ruin this pivotal deciding point for those of you who love the thrill, but consider this: Cage spends much of his stage time working opposite a child. Is the child there for emotional impact… or to make Nicholas Cage look good? You decide.
Being advertised as a disaster film, I should take a moment to tell you that there are two major special effects sequences that left me awestricken while simultaneously leaving me trying to spit the horrible taste out of my mouth. The effects and pacing of these two scenes were breathtaking; the tension was superb, bone-rattling in their intensity. Unlike most other big-budget Hollywood pictures, they keep the use of computer-generated effects at a tasteful level for two magnificent scenes. However, the content of the scenes lapse into the distasteful. In one, people jump out of sizzling flames like creepshow spooks. In the other, we see half the population of New York get mowed down by a renegade subway. The humanistic perspective of these disaster scenes could have been handled with more taste and respect, but the effects are immaculate.
My bottom line is, listen to the whispers you’re hearing in your ear right now and avoid Knowing. You may like director Alex Proyas, you may like Nicholas Cage, but both will let you down here. Just for old time’s sake, let’s look again at the stellar career of Nicholas Cage. He hijacked an airplane in Con Air and crashes it into Las Vegas. Later, he plays an arms dealer in Lord of War, where he supplies weapons to terrorists. In World Trade Center, he helps the nation recover from 9/11. And now, in Knowing, he predicts the end of the world. Do you see the pattern? Airplanes? 9/11? End of the world? You read it first here, friends: Nicholas Cage is going to be a catalyst to the terrorist-fueled Armageddon.