WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
In the late '50s, a group of elementary students put futuristic drawings in a time capsule that is then buried on school grounds. One overly obsessed kid, Lucinda, goes her own way by writing hundreds of mysterious, seemingly non-sensical numbers on her entry. Fifty years later, it's dug up and comes into the possession of Caleb, the young son of John Koestler, a recent widower and astro-physics professor, who becomes obsessed with the papers Caleb has brought home from class. He soon discovers the random digits are actually not-so-thinly disguised dates (including 91101 of course) for "future" disasters, and there are clearly three of those dates yet to come. Although nobody believes his ramblings about this code for impending doom, a nearby plane crash proves he is on to something so ominous the fate of the world could be in jeopardy. With all hell about to break loose, the prof takes matters into his own hands.
WHO'S IN IT?
Just a couple of years ago, Nicolas Cage starred in Next as a magician who could see into the future and had to prevent a nuclear attack. Now he's at it again as an MIT professor who also has clues to future catastrophes and also is out to prevent the inevitable. And of course, in the National Treasure films, he latched on to maps that had contained similarly dark, deeply held secrets. Nic clearly likes "knowing" stuff before the rest of us, and he's quite believable even if some of the circumstances in his latest sci-fi adventure are really out there -- literally. Cage somehow makes you buy into this stuff, which is key to the ultimate success of the flick. As the key kids, Chandler Canterbury, as Caleb, and Lara Robinson, as Lucinda, (and later Abby, Lucinda's granddaughter) are properly eerie and haunted-looking. Rose Byrne is also along for the ride as Lucinda's grown daughter, who is able to provide goosebump-inducing information that the numbers alone can't. There's also some dead-on creepy emoting from D.G. Maloney as a quietly foreboding stranger who seems to be following Caleb.
Unlike some recent movies of this type with nothing on the agenda but pure mayhem, "Knowing" delves into the bigger issues of why we are all here providing something other than just big explosions to talk about on the way home from the multiplex. Director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Dark City, The Crow) certainly knows how to pull off complex action set-pieces, but he and his screenwriters also seem to be genuinely interested in exploring the meaning behind the madness.
Some of the more pedantic dialogue Cage is given can be groan-inducing, but since he plays John as a total believer, we can forgive it. Also, the film falls victim to a final act that veers into typical disaster movie territory and isn't as compelling as the first two thirds which try to keep the premise at least marginally credible. At two hours, it probably could have been tightened anyway.
The rain-soaked plane crash sequence with its gritty hand-held photography is riveting to watch and one of the most frightening depictions of a jetliner disaster put on film yet.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
If you are really squeamish, it might be worth "knowing" that you should take breaks in the big disaster sequences as the CGI effects can get pretty violent and graphic, particularly for a PG-13 movie.