I know first I review Southland Tales,Push and then Knowing. I know what you’re thinking maybe you misread the title of the blog. While I’m not going to argue that Knowing is an underrated gem like I did with Push, I will argue that it’s well, interesting.
I wanted to see Knowing for a couple of reasons. For one thing I’m always going to have enough affection for Alex Proyas’s first two films, to check out his movies when he has something new. No matter how much his last two films disappointed me. And then their’s Roger Ebert, who fell head over heels in batshit crazy love with this film. One of the things about Ebert that makes him such a valuable critic is his total ignorance of herd think. When he gets a wild hair up his ass about something and say gives four stars to Bratz The Movie, I tend to listen because when Ebert sees something that almost no one else does, you can at least be sure that the film will be interesting.
And there’s a lot in Knowing to recommend. It’s the first time in quite awhile that Nicholas Cage has had a performance that’s somewhere near the realm of recognizable human behavior, except for a couple of strange moments ("I’m the SON of a PASTOR" and "THE CAVES WILL NOT SAVE YOU!!!"). At no time does he hold the Earth and scream "HOW'D IT GET BURNED HOW'D IT GET BURNED!" the films got a pretty great genre hook at it’s center, numbers dug up in a time capsule that have predicted every catastrophe in the past fifty years plus a few more, it’s classic Twilight Zone stuff. Even capturing The Zone’s appealingly self serious thematic resonance with the whole predestination vs. free will thing. Best of all Proyas really brings his A game in a way he hasn’t in over a decade. For whatever reason this material seems to have really energized him.
Scenes like the plane crash, the first disaster the numbers predict, a vision that Cage's son has of a flaming herd of Moose (trust me it's creepier then it sounds) and of course the jaw dropping final apocalypse itself, have a sort of Boschian grandeur too them. Portraying a nightmare grey world, illuminated only by flaming bodies, and echoing with the screams of the dying, and holy shit how the fuck did this movie get a PG-13?
Still it’s easy to see why this movie annoyed so many people. The fact that someone made a movie about the apocalypse without conforming itself to either Religious or Secular terms seems to have driven the majority of critics genuinely crazy. A lot of the reviews you read of the film aren’t just negative but actively angry, reading more like the movie hit their wife with a car, rather then wasted their time. It’s a legitmate beef, the fact that movie is trying to have it’s cake and eat it too by tapping into the apocalyptic zeitgeist of The Left Behind series without coming off as too crazy. But is that really worth getting that pissed about?
Other gripes are more legitimate. The film does get bogged down in some rather meaningless subplots near then end (if ever their was a two hour movie that begged to be a good half hour shorter it’s this one). But it’s “The Whisper People” who communicate apocalypse to the chosen ones in the most maddeningly indirect ways possible, that seem to be annoying the most people. Yes they are a bit silly and yes we’ve seen these types of obtuse ass creatures before. But it’s also a bit facetious. You have to allow some mysterious hugger mugger in these types of movies. If one of The Whisper people just went “Well let me tell you kid, the world’s about to be blown up by a huge solar flare so we’re going to take a couple of you children and stick in giant wheels that’ll take you up to another planet. Now how does that sound?” It would probably also come off as a bit silly.
Yeah so Knowing isn’t perfect. Not nearly. But I can’t help but have some affection for it. Any movie that sticks to it’s convictions enough to roast the entire world and nearly every man woman and remaining child on it like a marshmallow is OK in my book.