Knowing is the rather smarmily-titled new film from the ripe yet under-appreciated mind of Alex Proyas and the glaringly mediocre chutzpah of Nick Cage. I went into the film with delusions of disaster dancing around in my head. Not the disasters previewed on the screen mind you, but a disaster of a movie instead. Maybe it never electrifies quite as powerfully as a good sci-fi blockbuster wannabe should and perhaps it never delves very deep into its Christian allegorical gutty works as it so obviously desires. And Nick Cage is after all, still Nick Cage. An actor so emblazoned with the ridiculous that no one even flinched when his head finally burst into flames as the Ghost Rider. But Knowing had one thing this critic was ill prepared for - he liked it!
Now I am not saying this is the best thing to hit the genre since Kubrick and Tarkovsky first put a man in space, though it does have a touch of the existential angst that filled those films - sort of a sub prime mortgage edition. Perhaps it is more Irwin Allen disaster movie than anything, but allusions to Spielberg's Close Encounters, which in turn had allusions to the aforementioned Solaris which in turn had allsuions to 2001, make Knowing a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But allusionary deconstructing aside (Proyas, though interesting on some unknown level, ain't that deep) what Knowing has that was unexpected was a sense of fun. Even though the Earth is on a collision course for disaster and the impregnable riddle/enigma/mystery that is Nick Cage is the only person who can save the world and fire and brimstone await us all as our punishment for sin, the film finds a way to make the proceedings as entertaining as possible.
Granted, Proyas does this with more than a modicum of senseless cliche and a slew of "what the..!?" moments and the stretching of disbelief shows on screen. Inconsistencies abound and no one in their right mind is about to label Nick Cage as a versatile actor replete with a range of emotions (to use Dorothy Parker's barb, he runs the acting gamut from A to B) but nonetheless, the film somehow works on a purely entertainment for entertainment's sake level. It is meant to be a roller coaster ride, no matter how cliche that term sounds and though it may not hit the highs with the intensity it should, it surely has its moments. A plane crash and a subway disaster are the spectral highlights, save for the close encounter finale. Perhaps Proyas was reaching for some sort of deeper meaning, a la Darren Aronofsky's wonderfully under-rated The Fountain (there's your 2001 redux), when he tried to tie together angels and aliens and Adam and Eve. Whether he pulls it off or not - he doesn't really, but who's quibbling? - the film, despite the stoic anti-acting of Cage (and the inevitable pans it will receive along the critical landscape), makes for a legitimately fun time anyway. And to think, I was expecting a disaster of different proportions. [03/17/09]