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Monday, 21 June 2010

Knowing - Review (Text)

Over the past week, I’ve seen two *MASSIVE SPOILER* end of the world movies – my dad bought “Knowing” on Tuesday, which we watched then, and my younger brother bought my dad “2012” for Father’s Day (I bought him “No Country For Old Men” and “Invictus” – which you may eventually get reviews of, if I can ever be bothered – which I almost certainly won’t be, given my track record). So, I decided that I could review these two together, and save myself some time.

Saving time - the 1980s way...

Then it occurred to me that this was, in fact, a retarded idea; owing to the fact that the movies are actually very different, are not necessarily easy to interlink just because the overall theme of the films is based around the same premise (i.e. The End of the World) – and also that people may only want to read about one of the movies (and also that they’ll be able to find them more easily if I do a separate review for each).

So, with that in mind, let’s dig into “Knowing” – the newest Nicholas Cage film I’ve watched since Vue cinemas decided to be CUNTS and not release “Bad Lieutenant” in the South-West of the country (whilst re-showing the first 2 Twilight films in Plymouth, I might add! Although, that could make for some hilarious fucking reviewing – maybe I’ll finally do another video review if I can bear to fork over my hard-earned cash to sit through that shit).

The premise of “Knowing” is fairly simple: a freaky girl from the 50s writes a code on a piece of paper, which is buried in her school’s time-capsule; and is recovered in 2009 by Nick Cage’s son (I honestly can’t remember ANY character name, so Nick Cage’s character shall henceforth be referred to as Cassidy – because my Volumes of Preacher are sitting across from me, and I can’t be bothered to go on IMDB), who brings it home. Cassidy accidentally puts his coffee mug down on the sheet of paper, and it leaves a ring circling the numbers 91120012976 (or something like that), and he realizes that this can be separated into 9/11/2001, the date of the Twin Towers attack, plus the number of people who died in the attack. He starts to obsess over the paper, and soon discovers that every number on there relates to a major disaster from the past 50 years, since the time capsule was buried. From then on, the story revolves around Cassidy trying to get word out that there are 3 more disasters due to occur, and trying to stop them. Needless to say, it is revealed fairly quickly that the third and final disaster is, in fact, the end of the world; or at least – of all humans.

It could happen!

Whilst the premise does seem ridiculous, it is all explained towards the end of the film. However, I shall discuss that a little later on in this review, since I would like to get through as much of the movie as I can before getting to any major spoilers.

The acting is fairly decent throughout – especially from the kids. I’m always nervous about watching films with children in, because as a general rule, they can’t act. However, here they were fairly convincing – so much so that I could easily get absorbed within the story, and not constantly obsess about the acting, which was good.

It also says a lot for the script, of course, that I wasn’t just sitting watching a movie, but was having the full movie experience, as IMAX would say (I’ve never been to one, and I don’t intend to – unless I go to America, of course, where it would be considered rude not to).

Americans and their strange manners...

Of course, this is surprising for this type of movie (disaster movie), because generally they don’t rely on the script, but instead rely on the effects. Which, I am proud to say for the first time in my life, were FUCKING MIND-BLOWING!

Please remind me to NEVER search for "Head Explosion" on Google images with safe search off EVER AGAIN! It soooooo wasn't worth it for this crummy image - which would have come up if I'd typed in "Scanners", anyway!

Think of the best digital effects you’ve ever seen. Now realize that you picked that scene because it was easy to recognize as being a special effect, and therefore probably isn’t that good. With this movie, you won’t have that moment of realization. The effects in the disaster scenes of this film are beyond imaginable – it’s like actually being there!

The cinematography helps tremendously with this, as well as the direction. For example, during the first disaster, which is a plane crash, we go straight from looking at Cassidy speaking with a cop, to seeing the plane come spiraling out of the sky and crashing, and then follow Cassidy as he tries to rescue survivors, ALL IN ONE SHOT! That’s right – there is not a single cut in that scene – the camera never stops rolling! Not only that, but it’s a rainy day, with many of the colours muted by the grey sky, and this gives it a far more “real” feel than the ridiculously bright effects we’re used to seeing – which are too reminiscent of computer game graphics. And to top it all off – the scene appears to have been shot on a Super 16mm camera or a 28mm, rather than a 35, so has a more grainy, documentary feel to it. All these factors combined lead to possibly the most realistic plane crash scene ever depicted on film. And it is HORRIFYING!

For me, at least, I found the scene very hard to watch. Don’t get me wrong – I love it when movies are real; I can’t stand films where a bunch of faceless people are killed, and it doesn’t matter because we never knew the characters (see my next review!). But this was something else – this was so real, it actually felt horrible just watching it.

Other than war movies, I can’t really think of any where there are previously unseen and unknown characters killed, and it has the level of resonance with me that the plane crash scene in Knowing did – and in many ways I’m surprised it didn’t get an 18. And it’s not as though I’m just a pussy who can’t stand seeing anything horrible on screen – the scene isn’t exactly gory; and even if it was – I watch the fucking Saw movies for fun and don’t lose a moment’s sleep over the scenes depicted in those. What’s horrible about this is the scale of the event, and the realness of it. It’s not stylized, it’s not compromising; it just shows it as it is. In fact, the only time I’ve felt more horrified when watching a movie was when I saw Schindler’s list, which I had to walk out on because I felt so sick (how that’s a 15, I do not know).

I suppose the problem I have is that I have a slightly over-active mind when compared to the average movie-goer. Whilst I can quite happily sit through ridiculously high body counts in films like ‘Punisher: War Zone’, or ‘The Wild Bunch’, and hardly flinch (indeed, at varying points in each of those movies, I would be shouting “Awesome” or on the edge of my seat with excitement because someone had just been killed in an over-the-top and ridiculous fashion), the realistic stuff gets to me; the stuff you know people are actually going through, or have gone through. Whilst ‘Schindler’s List’ made me sick, imagining both what it would be like to be in a concentration camp, and also wondering how anyone could bring themselves to commit the sort of atrocities the SS soldiers did, ‘Knowing’ got to me because I can imagine myself being on a plane that goes down, or witnessing such a crash in real life, and imagining what it would be like. In all honestly, the visual images were so powerful, I felt I could smell the scene – the charred flesh hanging in the air, the Kerosine flames; everything (in the same way as people taste Mint in Shamrock shakes because they’re green). It probably doesn’t help that I’ve seen clips of an actual aircrash, either, and so ha already spent some time imagining what it must have been like to witness firsthand (I am, of course, referring to the Ramstein Airbase disaster, from which the band ‘Rammstein’ took their name, and wrote a song for; and which killed 44 people). The way Cassidy is in the middle of it all, yet unable to help anyone, is just as haunting; because it is easy to imagine yourself in his place. After seeing this scene, I have decided to lay off all the Nick Cage bashing that is so popular on the internet, because you have to be a hell of an actor to pull off a scene like that, and leave audiences with that effect.

Yes, one HELL of an actor!

Credit where Credit's due, I totally stole this image from Dan O'Brien in the hopes he would fuck my shit up in revenge!

In my defence, it doesn't say anything about stealing IMAGES...

The second disaster doesn’t let up either, with the exact same kind of feel to it. It revolves around something we’ve all done, and we can no doubt imagine ourselves in such a position, and when you combine this with the realism of the effects; it is truly haunting. Granted, after the first disaster, the edge is slightly taken off the second one, because you know what to expect, and also because it is shot from multiple angles, rather than one long tracking shot, so is identified by your brain as just being a movie, rather than getting that feeling it is real. But still, it is a very powerful scene.

Unfortunately, the producers couldn’t keep it up. Whilst those two scenes are incredible, both in their direction and cinematography, and as a tour-de-force of digital effects rendering; there were also a couple of let-downs in the movie. I’m gonna get into some major spoilers below, so feel free to skip to my concluding paragraph if you wish.

Seriously, though, Fuck puns! And - wait! Is that Exeter Cathedral in the background? WTF? There aren't Chinese people in Devon!

First of all, I was annoyed by the “crash out of nowhere” scene near to the end. Whilst I was VERY impressed with the suddenness with which the plane crash occurred earlier in the film, I have seen WAAAAY too many movies where one of the protagonists is just crossing the road, or driving across it, and is hit by a truck. It was shocking and fresh in Meet Joe Black; it was a stupid repeat in Hot Rod, but still a funny scene; by The Orphanage it was getting too predictable (hence the real shock comes afterwards), and by the time we hit Knowing, everyone already knows about it! Get it? Knows? Cos the film’s called… Oh man! Tough Crowd!

Get it? TOUGH crowd? Tou - oh, wait. I got "Tough" and "Gay" confused again, didn't I?

My second complaint is that the “shocking twist ending” was too predictable. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I kept thinking about Signs whilst I was watching this, and not just because I want to nail Abigail Breslin.

Come on guys! I didn't mean when she was IN Signs; I meant NOW!... What? 14's still not legal? Huh... Ummm, did you put that charge sheet away yet?

But I think that there were a lot of connections to be made; the kid with a mild disability who’s obsessed with aliens; the father who stopped believing in God after his wife’s death; hell, they even live in the same style of house! So when the aliens did finally come, it wasn’t much of a surprise, but more of an “I told you so moment”, because earlier on when the woods were on fire, and you could just see a light through the window, my dad said “what’s that?”, and I replied “It’s the Aliens”, then when it turned out it was a fire he said “what Aliens? There weren’t Aliens” – but I knew better! Cue evil laughter…

Today's competition: Name the Cartoon this still was taken from! Answers in the comments, or burned into the skull of your next victim.

And yes, I get the religious connotations - the whole rescuing the innocent before the planet perishes thing, which sits halfway between Noah's Ark and The Rapture in the Book of Revelations (I was a MillenniuM fan, you know?). But seriously, those were fucking Aliens. Hell, maybe Angels are Aliens? But I like to think of it as an analogy for religion, rather than it actually being angels. Still, each unto his own (the angels theory does fit in nicely with the non-beliver converting back to faith theme nicely, though). Hell, you can talk about the philosophical points behind this movie forever, but I get the feeling it would be just like all the religious imagery people see in Pulp Ficiton - half of it probably wasn't intended! Plus, I'm just doing a basic review here, not a full table disucussion. So if I may...?

The effects towards the end are also fairly lousy compared to earlier on, because they go from being incredibly realistic, to being very fanciful and also very obviously just effects. Obviously, it’s hard to make aliens and their ships look realistic, and since the structure of the ships could very well be beyond our comprehension, for all I know this all looked exactly as it would in real life. However, I wasn’t feeling it, and I felt that, with a little more work, it could have been greatly improved. Cage’s acting towards the end is also great, and it makes you wonder why so many people rip on him…

Oh... yeah.

On top of that, there’s really not all that much to say. Surprisingly, I have come out of a movie with my mind preoccupied more by the digital effects than anything else – in a GOOD WAY! That’s never happened to me before. Previously, as with The Dark Knight, or The Matrix Reloaded, when I’ve been more obsessed with effects than the actual story itself, it’s been because they were so BAD. But here, it’s just… unbelievable.



4/5 Stars

Truthfully, I do feel like a bit of a dick, rating this movie 4 stars; because I know full well that, based on the story, the acting, and the direction, it really only deserves 3. But damn it, those effects were SO good, I feel it deserves to be bumped up a notch – because they really have made an otherwise fairly predictable movie unique. And hell, I marked TDK down for the shitty Two-Face effects, why can’t I mark this one up for having great effects?

This movie is fairly exciting, and for the most part will keep you interested, even if the beginning is a bit slow; and the disaster scenes are so impressive it has to be seen to be believed. I recommend you watch this film if you can look at Nicholas Cage for more than five seconds without thinking about burnt toast:

2012 review hopefully coming tomorrow!


  1. Ok, be honest now - how many of you thought "Terminator 2"? when I asked you about the best effects you've seen? Or am I the only one stuck in the 90s?