Saying that this is the best film Nicolas Cage has done in years probably doesn’t sound like much of a complement, and that’s because it isn’t. He hasn’t really delivered a profound performance since Leaving Las Vegas (though Adaptation was pretty good), and this time round he continues his trend of playing Mr Sad Sack, all furrowed brows and pitiful eyes, but at least I liked the film.
Knowing was strange for me, mainly because it was filmed in Melbourne, and particularly my old high school. To see Cage walking through hallways I recognised so well was more than a little weird. Then there was the fact that director Alex Proyas was also responsible for Dark City, one of my favourite films at that age.
My trip down memory lane aside, Knowing is a lot of fun. It’s supremely silly, but intriguing enough that the absurdity doesn’t really matter. John Koestler finds himself in the centre of something big – like, really big. It involves prophecies and disasters and a whole lot of numbers, and to say anything more would ruin a film that has more than a few surprises in store.
In many ways, this film reminded me how science fiction can be fun. Proyas is a fantastic visionary, even if he isn’t too great at eliciting top notch dramatic performances from his stars. Knowing is embarrassing more than once, and the fault must lie with the script and/or direction, because when have you ever seen Rose Byrne deliver a bad performance? Some of the film’s most emotional moments are unintentionally funny, but these are far outweighed by the sense of mystery (and dread) which hangs over the entire narrative.
Many have taken exception to what has been called Christian propaganda, but I don’t really see the film in that light. If anything, the screenwriters and Proyas simply handpicked some religious concepts and iconography to suit their rather fantastical sci-fi needs. The film didn’t feel preachy at all, so if the aim was to sermonize, then they failed completely. The ‘science’ on display was pretty woeful too, so what we have is a brilliantly entertaining flick that’s filched husks from both science and religion.
The special effects are fantastic. This was the first time in a while I’ve actually been in awe of CGI. The score hits all the same beats that Trevor Jones’ superb work on Dark City did, though isn’t nearly as memorable.
Proyas’ film is wonderfully engaging. I can understand why it would be hard for some to get past just how silly the film is – he got away with such implausibility in Dark City because the film was ultra-stylised and removed from our world, whereas Knowing sits uncomfortably in the here and now. But for me, it was a great fun.Rating: