Archive for The Knowing

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on April 21, 2009 by babydylan

An ever present pout, a lush head of (possibly fake) hair, a fair bit of bitching and moaning. One could be mistaken for thinking it was another chapter in the Lindsay Lohan saga, instead it is the latest offering by everyone’s favourite Coppola, Nicolas Cage. Alex Proyas’ The Knowing not only highlights Cage’s perky weave, it manages to straddle the line between the spine-tingly and outright ridiculous.

I have put up with a lot from Nic Cage. I have tried to keep things positive, but there are times when even I can’t see the good side. After one of my favourite performances with Cage playing both Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Adaptation (2002) I am willing to forgive most things. Yet since that viewing I have been sorely tested with Con Air (1997) which I admit I got a cheap thrill from, Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), and what seemed like eight hours of my life that I will never get back from watching City of Angels (1998). I could look past the ludicrous plot of National Treasure (2004) and semi-believe Diane Kruger would fall in love with his brainy but ultimately dull character (meanwhile we all know in the real world she would have had it off with Riley played by Justin Bartha. Anyone remember TV show Teachers? Sigh). Yet all Cage’s good work was subsequently crushed with Ghost Rider (2007) and the unnecessary National Treasure sequel, tag-line: ‘Taking perfectly interesting historical events to new stages of fucking ridiculous’.

Cage says: Hellloooo ladies!

Cage says: "Hellloooo ladies!"

Thus walking into The Knowing I was filled with two parts apprehension, one part fear. I’d heard positive things about the film, as one usually hears when film companies are trying to spruik their latest billion dollar folly. I think every person in Melbourne knew someone who had either worked on the film, been in the film or walked past a film-set being a bloody nuisance around town. This was further enticement for me, to see how they disguise my familiar and well-loved Melbourne. Changing it to Boston, Massachusetts where the sun is getting ready to flash and MIT professors and their genius sons live in decrepit and and isolated shacks. I am curious as to how American audiences received the films location. To Melbournian eyes, no matter how hard you try to make the intensely orange leaves look like a Boston Autumn, it will always be Melbourne Universities south lawn. Apocalyptic scenes might be happening all over New York, but they are clearly running about on the steps of Parliament at the top of Bourke Street. And I doubt any school child could fail to forget a certain whale skeleton at the Melbourne Museum. If you look carefully you can even see Victorian number plates as Cage zips about town. The fact that the city is so blatantly changed is exciting, heightening my viewing experience giving a serious case of I-See-What-You-Did-There.

I-See-What-You-Did-There Cat sees what youre doing...

I-See-What-You-Did-There Cat sees what you're doing...

But back to the plot. The film seems to take a lot of time dithering with set up and back story. It’s 1959 and school children are putting a time capsule in the ground for future generations to dig up. 50 years in the future actually, how fortuitous! One girl however, Lucinda (Lara Robinson), seems to be a little on the queer side, writing some funky code instead of drawing pictures of flying goats or meals made in tiny pills or whatever 1959 children dreamed the future would be like. Lucky for us, John Koestler (Cage) and his son Caleb (Chandler Cantebury – what a name!) are the recipients of this pareidolia. As John goes on yet another bender due to the recent loss of his wife (here Cage dazzles us with some humours drunken staggering), he discovers the key to the code. I’m sure you’ve all seen in the trailer which tells us in urgent whispers the numbers have predicted every major disaster over the last 20 years, the day, date and year, the amount of people to die and the co-ordinates on the globe. Three dates are left on the list and they are looming large.

Cut to John tracking down Lucinda’s spawn, her granddaughter Abby (also Lara Robinson) and daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) who is fueled by the determination to fight the prophecy predicting her death – until it does. For most of the film Proyas follows a very Day After Tomorrow and The Day The Earth Stood Still path. The most breathtaking moments being the predicted disaster. Cage, somewhat luckily and somewhat foolishly, happens to be at both. The one-take plane crash is handled masterfully as we observe, horrified, the unfolding carnage. The plane cleans up several cars on the freeway bowling ball style and then crashes spectacularly into the ground. We follow Cage as he walks through the wreckage, watching survivors scream in agony as fire engulfs them. Cage tries to douse the flames, his shell-shocked manner more than apparent as he struggles to comprehend what he is seeing and how he might have prevented it. The scenes of death and mayhem are chillingly brought to the screen and although graphic and all too real, it is tastefully done.

Vinyl does nothing for my complexion, Alex!

'Vinyl does nothing for my complexion, Alex!'

Everything appears to be progressing scarily as mute white haired men continue to be send Caleb visions of fiery doom leading John to do what all Americans seem to do in these situations – get a gun! The soundtrack throughout is subtly foreboding and leads one to ask, “Why do all the scary things happen at night?’ You begin to realise, like many thrillers, that when the music seems to urge you to bite your fingernails, the crazy shit is going down.

I really wanted to love this film. It had Cage doing a fine job mooching in door frames, Rose Byrne looking quite fetching and ready to tear up at any moment, beautiful shots of Melbourne and horrifyingly real disaster scenes. Yet everything fell apart with the ending and I found myself asking, “Why ye cinema Gods, why?” The believability, the reason we hang around til the end, the whole crux of the film relies on why it is all happening and it is one massive let down. Think disappointments almost identical to ‘Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull’ and you might grasp the nature of this blow. As one friend said, “Walk out 20 minutes before the end and you’ll love it.”

Him and that NUMB3RS guy would be BFFs...

Him and that NUMB3RS guy would be BFFs...

Yet despite this tragedy, I enjoyed the film. Although many of Cage’s more serious moments inspired a few giggles (have you seen the way that man runs?) the overall ideabehind the film were intriguing and well represented. If anything see it for Melbourne alone, the thrill of having our city decimated is both scary and exciting. Much like Nicolas Cage’s hair.