Tuesday 7 April 2009

Review: Knowing

Director: Alex Proyas
Screenplay:Ryne Douglas Pearson, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Starring: Nic Cage, Rose Byrne


Synopsis is here

Enjoyment in Knowing relies on a reveal in the third act that requires a hell of a lot of suspension of belief. After walking out of the film I was angry at the end because I found the reveal so heavy handed I burst out laughing. After going to ASDA and picking up a curry I found myself still considering the ending. Now this is usually a good thing because the endings that stays with you are the ones you love. Then I released why. The film sticks to its sci-fi concept and the themes that come with the message are surprisingly grand for such a film.

However the execution of the climax becomes difficult to digest for me because it's ham-fisted and the allegory becomes obvious, even more obvious than Signs (2002) a film that Knowing appears to alludes to. The reveal also reminds me of another film I was extremely disappointed with...I won't say too much more but it involves crystal skulls, with that said however, Knowing has more respect for it's audience (for the most part).

Director Alex Proyas is a solid filmmaker and his back catalog shows that he has a knack for material like this. In Knowing he reminds us why he was picked as director after Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) left the project. Proyas keeps the film interesting from a visual sense, pilfering elements from his very own film (Dark City) to bring about some tense moments throughout the film. Some have complained about the over reliance on CGI and while it's not the best computer visual work I've seen, Proyas' keen eye kept me within the film. His direction kept me involved in the movie, much more than Cage's dubious performance in the lead (we'll get to that).

The screenplay has been considered generic by some and I can understand why. Cage's lead John suffers from estranged parents, alcoholism and a death in his family AS WELL AS having to deal with his bizarre son. Generic it may be but the stereotypes (as blatant as they are) help bring about a character who is much more fully formed than many I've seen in a film like this in a while (note last film I watched before this was The Fast and The Furious). In fact the screenplay is appears more interested in telling it's story and bring about it's themes which is becoming more and more of a surprise for me these days.

It's a shame that despite it's good points, Knowing hurts itself with it's lead actor and ending. The screenplay which looked like it could set up a worthy climax, trips over its logic (John and the door...how?). Proyas tries to run with it but the climax is displayed in such a way it becomes comical. While I was shocked at the direction the film took i realised it should take that route as it's a SCI-FI MOVIE and it makes sense in the long run. What I hated about ending is the hodgepodge religious symbolism the film shoves in. If the film wanted to be The Omen or otherwise it should have been a horror movie. There's more than enough aspects of the film to make it one. But the film wants to have it's cake and eat it, throwing away any type of subtlety (or dignity) in order to try and please everyone it seems. It doesn't help that Nicolas Cage is at his most inexpressive here. This has been his strongest screenplay since Lord of War (2005) and Cage refuses to inject any energy into his scenes. A stronger performance may have made the ending bearable.

Rose Byrne is shoehorned into a supporting role and doesn't have too much to do but is solid enough while the child actors are pretty forgettable. There's some interesting turns from Nadia Townsend and Ben Mendelsohn as John's sister and Best friend respectively but the film hasn't the time to fill them out as much.

Knowing deals with some grand themes and for the most part makes the journey towards the message an intriguing one, however the scripts wish to balance religion with sci-fi knocks it off course. It's hard to do both but I've seen films do it in the past. The main film I'm thinking of is Darren Aronofsky's Pi, a film that manages to balance that delicate line that knowing so desperately wants to stay on the right side. But Pi has a advantage of being a smaller film with less focus on spectacle and more on it's script. If Knowing went down the same route I would probably rate it higher.