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Knowing (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 121 minutes.

This is a classic example of a film that should have been subjected to a detailed preview process, one in which the producer should have paid attention to the comments of the viewers. For 100 minutes, it is a rip-snorting, tense, interesting film. Then it completely falls apart.

John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) is a teacher whose son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) is given a letter written by a goofy girl, Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) 50 years before and put into a time capsule. It’s just a bunch of numbers. When John finally looks at it, even though it is incomprehensible, he deciphers it (surprise, surprise!) and comes to the conclusion that it’s a dire prediction (actually, a bunch of dire predictions). The first 100 minutes consists of John trying to find out when, where, how, and what is going to happen.

In the process, John and his son find Lucinda’s daughter, Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne) and granddaughter, Abby (Robinson in a dual role), to try to decipher what’s going on. Both Abby and Caleb are schizophrenic. Well, they’d be that in a normal world, because they both hear voices. Since this is a Hollywood movie, the voices they hear are really voices upon which they may rely.

Director Alex Proyas demonstrates a deft touch for mystery as he keeps the tension mounting until the 100 minute mark. At 100 minutes I felt I was watching a really terrific film. Then it completely falls apart.

To say the ending is unsatisfying would be the understatement of the year. But what’s even worse is how long it takes to get from the 100-minute mark to the ending. Proyas fills the last 21 minutes with a plethora of special effects and music, enough to fill several movies. Unfortunately, Proyas apparently doesn’t know what’s going on or why, because he doesn’t provide any explanation for what we see occurring on the screen.

Maybe the reason he chose this particular ending was to exhibit the special effects in which he is so clearly in love, and they are pretty good, especially a plane crash and a subway disaster. But on the brighter side, maybe, too, some day these special effects directors will learn that a movie is not special effects. It is story and acting and reason and common sense.

The last 21 minutes is devoid of all four, especially the latter two. It’s a metaphysical ending that defies explanation, and left me thinking that I had just wasted two hours.