Friday, March 27, 2009

KNOWING: Flawed But Engaging

KNOWING (sci-fi thriller)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, Ben Mendelsohn, Adrienne Pickering and Tamara Donnellan
Director: Alex Proyas
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Would some superior alien being communicate through a human child in whispers? Would the message be in the form of seemingly random numbers that only a certain astrophysicist can decipher? And what is the point of the whole exercise when the agenda and the outcome has been planned?

This is the conceit of Knowing, a sci-fi venture that is reminiscent of X-Files, Independence Day and Armageddon. We get involved in the mystery because we root for the characters involved. The plot boggles the mind.

THE PLOT: A group of students is asked to draw pictures to be stored in a time capsule as part of a dedication ceremony of a new primary school. However, instead of drawing pictures, Lucinda (Lara Robinson) fills her sheet of paper with random numbers instead. Fifty years later, a new bunch of students receives the capsule's contents and Lucinda's cryptic message ends up in the hands of Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury), a boy who has recently lost his mother.

That night, Caleb's father John, an astrophysicist at MIT, accidentally discovers that the encoded message predicts with the dates, death tolls and coordinates of every major disaster of the past 50 years. As John further unravels the document's secrets, he realises the numbers foretell three more disasters.

When his attempts to alert the authorities fall on deaf ears, he takes it upon himself to try to prevent the destruction from taking place. He tracks down Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby, and they start a race against time to prevent the ultimate disaster - and the ultimate sacrifice.

HITS & MISSES: It is difficult to understand how John can make sense of the sets of numbers that have no punctuation marks or spaces. It is even more difficult to understand how he intends to stop some tragedy without knowing what it is. So the best way to enjoy the movie is to stop thinking and go along with Alex Proyas' narrative, which, we suspect, is more of an excuse to show off the mind-boggling special effects pieces that he has set up.

One of these is a frenzied smash-up in a New York City subway, and another, a horrific plane crash with passengers scurrying about in flames. The third is highly controversial and derivative.

There is no doubt that Cage's performance helps to sustain our interest in a messy script and the supporting cast is solid too. The best performances, however, come from youngsters Canterbury and Robinson - as children caught in something they cannot understand but have to accept.

THE LOWDOWN: Flawed, but engaging.


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