Knowing is a mostly sure-footed Hollywood blockbuster, an apocalyptic thrill ride that comes dangerously close to being a great film before it falters in its final revelation.
Nicolas Cage, who has broken more than one box-office record playing sympathetic heroes who evolve through deduction, plays MIT professor John Koestler, the single father of Caleb (Chandler Cantebury), a boy who brings home a mysterious drawing recovered from a school time capsule. The drawing displays a series of numbers with no seeming significance, until Koestler takes a closer look and realizes the cryptic numbers lay out a pattern of disasters stretching back 50 years. Realizing that there are only a handful of events yet to unfold, John sets out to discover the truth behind the numbers—and the race to save the world begins.
Since 9/11 and Katrina, disasters have become an intrinsic part of our popular psyche, and Knowing effectively plays on our fears by giving us front-row seats to a chain of disastrous events. Director Alex Proyas sets a relentless pace but allows Cage and Canterbury to shine in their roles, keeping the focus on their internal struggles rather than the destruction around them.
Some of the disasters may be too painful for some audience members to watch: A plane crash unfolds in one continuous shot that is merciless in its depiction of death and mayhem, only to be topped minutes later by a subway derailment that would strike terror into the heart of any strap-hanger.
Cage's portrayal of Koestler, a man of science whose last remnant of faith was destroyed after his wife's death, brings up the very real question of faith in the face of tragedy. What is the source of the numbers? God? Man? These are the questions that fuel the mystery behind Knowing.
Unfortunately, it is Knowing's revelation that comes out of the oven half-baked. Despite this, the great achievement of Knowing is that it provokes you to ask your own questions long after you've left the theater. Knowing is an enjoyable ride even if the destination isn't what you expected.