Sunday 22 September 2013

Film: Knowing (2009)

This one had passed me by until now, and I knew nothing about it before watching. Be warned – there are some spoilers in this review since it's difficult to write about the film without them, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum.

The plot concerns the opening of a "time vault" buried at a school fifty years before, which had been filled with examples of the children's work. One of the envelopes turns out to contain a page of numbers in apparently random order. Professor John Koestler (Nicholas Cage), the scientist father of one of the present-day children, first becomes intrigued by what the numbers might mean then increasingly horrified as he realises that they seem to foretell major disasters – decades before they happened.

He tries to discover the origin of the paper and tracks down Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne), the daughter of the girl who wrote the paper and now, like Koestler, the single parent of a young child. Meanwhile his son begins to hear strange voices in his head, inhuman-looking men begin to watch their house, and Koestler becomes increasingly desperate in his attempts to discover what is going on. I am not a fan of Nicholas Cage, but in this film he is well suited to the permanent state of agonised bewilderment his face seems to have been designed for.

The first part of most stories tends to set expectations in terms of how the plot is going to develop. I assumed that the two leads would get together, resolve what is going on, and all live happily ever after. What actually happens is far more surprising and intriguing than that. The story veers off in an unexpected direction in the final scenes, shifting from fantasy to science fiction. 

These days the description "adult movie" is taken to mean explicit sex and and nudity, but there is none of those in this film. Instead, it is adult in a different way, in that it follows the plot through with a ruthless logic that is decidedly untypical of Hollywood. On the way, it includes some of the most frighteningly realistic crash sequences I have ever seen. The story reminded me of a novel I reviewed here in March 2010, Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper, and it has an equally dramatic and unexpected ending. The only problem with the SF ending is that in retrospect it sits rather uncomfortably with the fantasy beginning. Despite this, Knowing is a film that is worth watching.

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