Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Nicholas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury
“How am I supposed to stop the end of the world?” A man stands in a room alone, pondering the workings of the universe. As he watches fate’s clockwork ticking away, his eyes grow wide. Angsty palpitations dance across his skull and a look of fear fills his face. Fear. And pain. The classic Nicholas Cage.
On textbook form, The Cage plays John Koestler, a rationalising astrophysicist whose beliefs are plunged into a deterministic hell: what if a sheet of numbers (written 50 years ago by a small schoolgirl) can predict the world’s worst disasters? And, more importantly, what happens when the numbers run out?
A brief word on this: numerology? Time capsules? A semi-deaf son (Canterbury) who can hear voices? It’s all balderdash of the highest quality. But where Kabballah and Dan Brown choked on their own claptrap, Knowing pulls off its countdown conundrum with some conviction. It’s certainly no Pi, but helmer Alex Proyas does a decent M. Night Shyamalan impression at the very least.
The other performers range from equine (Cage) to excessive, with Rose Byrne’s single mother, Diana, joining the Family Man’s Face Off before the world has Gone in Sixty Seconds. Her contribution to the campaign? “We’ve got the save the children!” A key piece of characterisation, for sure.
More disturbing still, are the shadowy Goths who stalk John and Diana wherever they go. Pale, eerie and mostly mute, they turn up, deposit a present and leave. What are the shiny black rocks they give to the children? Are they alien droppings? The bread of heaven? The answer is obvious from the outset, but the Dark City director has the courage to see it through to the end; a straight-faced determination that somehow keeps this load of hooey from going under.
On the way, there are some spectacularly rendered set pieces – there’s an obsession with CGI flames and an apparent fetish for filming mass casualties, but the tension is maintained for most of the runtime. They even get away with The Cage walking straight into a plane crash unscathed.
The ending is hokum, of course. We already knew that. An unnecessary epilogue hammers it home. But with its ominous soundtrack and celestial concerns, this derivative drivel (a sort of Signs meets The Number 23) makes for a rather gripping supernatural thriller; a baptism by fire for the more dubious cinemagoers. The less said about the flaming moose, the better.
Surprisingly suspenseful. Having Proyas at the helm saves this portentous piece from potential disaster. For once, Knowing almost is all its cracked up to be.