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Knowing Review – Disaster Wrought by Numbers

Knowing Review – Disaster Wrought by Numbers” width=”560″/>

Dark City director Alex Proyas’ latest movie Knowing purports to be a story about love, loss, sacrifice, redemption, and all sorts of other big soul-searching motifs in the man’s-quest-for-meaning mode. So it must surely come as disheartening to both Proyas and his loyal legion of geek followers that the overriding reaction to such metaphysical mumbo-jumbo will be, “Who cares?” Surely not the actors in this silly scifi actioner, nor the patient audience merely looking for 90 minutes of metropolis devastation. Indeed, Proyas’ latest attempt at mainstream scifi represents for him a new artistic low.

John Koestler (Cage) is a single father who tortures himself over the tragic loss of his wife as he struggles not to lose it for the sake of his young son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). They live in a creaky old house where Koestler acts the loving father until Caleb’s tucked in for the night, at which point Cage turns into a booze-swilling depressive. One day Caleb participates in a time-capsule-opening ceremony, where he finds a letter from the past written in mysterious rows of numbers. This begets Koestler’s realization that every disaster for the past 50 years has been pre-ordained, and it falls to him to jet off to doomed locations like some besotted superhero to save mankind from events still yet to transpire.

To be fair, the visceral disaster sequences that follow are ravishing; they explode from the screen with such force they should be required viewing for future generations of Michael Mann wannabes. The action, along with the crack soundwork that accompanies it, is so relentlessly, preposterously terrifying that it’s almost embarrassing to watch in public. I was cowering in my seat.

Alas, the thrills are over far too quickly, and the movie fades out into a wash of religious hokum and genre clichés, right down to a gaggle of mute Max Headroom lookalikes in lumpy overcoats. If you can’t instantly figure out from whence such creatures came — they’re clearly not g-men — then you might be one of the few viewers not annoyed when the movie’s end-game is finally revealed. Cage fans will find themselves wondering more than once whether he questioned any of the direction he was given (Really? You think I should fall to my knees in this scene? Like this? Because I was thinking I could probably just convey shock on my face, like, you know, people do in real life…) or if he just shut his trap and daydreamed about what to do with the paycheck.

What’s worse, the rest of the cast apparently decided not to bother acting at all. Koestler’s partner in mystery-unraveling, Diana (Rose Byrne), jumps straight from disengaged to histrionic as if there are no other emotions on the spectrum. And when Koestler’s scientist-buddy (Ben Mendelsohn) is given the news that the end of the world is nigh, his only response is to peer glumly at the camera with an expression so blank you almost suspect he’s in on the conspiracy (spoiler: He’s not). As for the kid-actors, well, they’re kids.

Fans of Proyas’ noirish sensibilities won’t walk away feeling completely deprived. There’s plenty of jittery, evocative camera work and cool extended shots that must have been a nightmare to produce. But the problem is more elemental than that: Overarching themes hinted at in the movie don’t go anywhere (or anywhere satisfying, at least) and the script falls to pieces once the action comes to a halt. There’s an ending, and then another ending, and yet another one after that. If he’d gone out quickly and happily, we might have been more willing to follow suit.

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