Even for a critic against spoiling films, public service trumps professional courtesy. Read the plot of The Forgotten and realize that Knowing is a similarly anticlimactic, idiotic leap into Shyamalan-ian insanity, with a dash of moderate fundamentalism.
One can hope Earth’s final hours aren’t as interminable as this cartoonish rapture wish-fulfillment yarn, in which only sequences of destruction distract from its dunderheadedness. Maintaining his always-compelling visual style, only director Alex Proyas (I, Robot and The Crow) and the senior pyro foreperson earn their keep.
Blending doomsday mysticism, otherworldly phenomena, parental concern and quasi-spiritualism, Knowing blatantly references Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But there are no lumpy mashed potatoes, just another lumpy performance from Nicolas Cage bound to warrant yet another YouTubed compilation of awfulness.
Granted, it’s nothing like karate-kicking Leelee Sobieski in the face or scampering around in a bear costume. But when Cage whaps a tree with a baseball bat, yelling “You want some of this?!,” the nosedive begins.
An opening prologue in 1959 sets a tone of paranormal pathos and paranoia shared by Mark Pellington’s underrated The Mothman Prophecies, but it doesn’t last long.
While most kids draw pictures of rockets and robots to place inside a new elementary school’s time capsule, young Lucinda (Lara Robinson) furiously scribbles a sheet of numbers and listens to voices swirling in her head.
When the capsule is opened 50 years later, young Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) brings home Lucinda’s message. Soon, he’s hearing a whirl of whispers, and is stalked by mystery men who resemble Paul Mitchell hair models of the 1990s.
Caleb lives with his father, John (Cage), a widowed MIT professor so ashen and hopeless over his wife’s accidental death that he looks ready to crack a fifth of rye in his classroom. During yet another late-night bender, John hones in on one particular number sequence — 9/11/01 — and he eventually decodes Lucinda’s scrawl.
Like a Little Suzie Nostradamus, Lucinda has predicted the dates, coordinates and casualties of every major global disaster since 1959. The catch: There are future dates on the calendar, and they’re rapidly approaching.
John races against time — and a lifetime of scientist logic — to ward off a potentially global disaster and save his son from “the whisper people” (who do what can only be described as belching rays of light).
It’s here that Knowing could achieve the pop-culture poetry of unexpected heroism in Unbreakable or even the parental persistence of Jeff Bridges in Arlington Road. But a dopey script and infuriatingly lazy leading man constantly get in the way.
Knowing’s ballyhooed plane- and subway-crash sequences are bravura — dazzling, alarming, haunting and immediate in a way the rest of the film is not. Only Cage, in full paycheck-collecting mega-thriller mode, could trample their intense-stress payoffs. It’s not long before he confuses human turmoil with jutted hands and a raised voice in the most painfully empty performance yet for a once-reliable risk-taker.
He’s got strong competition for being the worst element of the film. First is a leaden screenplay with non-existent pacing and plot-twist predications – like an a-ha! moment with a power tool – as dumb as the cereal-box moment of Lady in the Water. Equally awful is Marco Beltrami’s intrusive score — like Bernard Herrmann on Ritalin, all bleating brass, thick pizzicato strings and thunderous percussion. For all its thunderous effects, Knowing never unnerves or unsettles, settling instead for faux-desolation before its emotionally bogus resolution. Knowing debates randomness versus determinism, and its stupidity proves it’s definitely determined to waste your time.