Posted by: Dr P | February 5, 2009

Knowing

Now I really like Nicolas Cage. In emotional epics such as Leaving Las Vegas he is astounding. He is also a pretty good action hero, witness his sublime role in the crowd-pleasing “The Rock” movie, where he held his own admirably with Ed Harris and Sean Connery. However, in this film, I think he knew what was coming. As with many blockbuster movies in 2009 to date, this is a bit of a turkey.

Oh it has its moments – and as a disaster movie it delivers in spades. The premise is fairly simple. 50 years ago a primary school decided to lock away visions of the future – as drawn by the pupils – for a half century, so that their compatriots could unveil them and see how true their predictions were. A fairly simple time capsule affair, you might think. However, one disturbed girl refused to draw her vision, but instead filled her sheet of paper with apparently meaningless scribblings. A bit like this review. In frustration, the class teacher snatched the paper away before it could be completed, which drove the girl even madder.

Fast forward 50 years to the unveiling and opening of the time capsule. Nic Cage’s son is one of the pupils in the class which receives the predictions, and he is given an envelope which contains the mad girl’s scribbles. It needs to be said at this point that Cage is a professor of astrophysics at MIT, so he’s clearly no slouch in the mathematical department. Which comes in quite handy …

Having got a wee bit drunk later that night, Cage spots a familiar numerical sequence on the piece of paper – it is the date of September 11, 2001, the date of course when two planes hit the twin towers in New York. The following 4 digits exactly match the number of fatalities that day!! Cage is immediately aghast by the coincidence, a feeling which turns into horror as he looks more closely at the paper and discovers dozens – if not hundreds – more similar numer sequences – dates and casualties of global disasters of the intervening 50 years since the girl wrote them down. Each sequence is separated by another set of numbers which at first appear indecipherable.

If you’re starting to think this all sounds completely hokey, you might be right – but at this stage the film is quite gripping – for example, Cage discovers that there are 3 number sequences remaining, the next one within a couple of days!!! Astonishingly he then realises that the undeciphered numbers are actually coordinates which reveal the precise location of the disaster. Because this is Hollywood, and because he is deeply stupid, the prof then decides to drive to precisely the point of the next catastrophe on the right date – he then witnesses a fantastically filmed disaster in which a plane crashes and mows through the traffic jam where Cage is sat. It’s quite terrifying cinema and very realistically shot. Score one for the director here.

As the grim horror settles in and Cage discovers the numbr of dead – 81 – exactly matches the latest prediction, he then becomes obsessed and decides to go to the penultimate location specified on the paper. There disaster number 2 – a horrendous subway accident – takes place, and for me this is the set piece highlight of the film. Bodies smashed to bits, scenery mangled, chaos, horror, it’s a great scene.

However things then start to go downhill. There’s a completely daft subplot in which mysterious albino type men start appearing and communicating with Cage’s son. Meanwhile Cage tracks down the daughter of the girl who wrote the prediction sheet, and forms a bond with her. The film starts to change from gripping disaster film to a chase movie, where Cage runs amok in the forests chasing albinos and wondering what the hell is going on. By this stage the audience has started to wonder a bit too.

I can’t possibly spoil the end of the movie other than to say if you read my review of Indiana Jones 4 from last summer, you’ll understand why I got very annoyed at the resolution of the subplot. However unlike other disaster movies, the final disaster that takes place is catastrophic in the extreme – and well worth seeing!!

It’s such a frustrating last third to this film – the opening hour promises a great deal, and indeed the final prediction more than delivers. However it’s the stupid and unnecessary subplot which spoilt this for me – Big G and I kept laughing at all the wrong moments. Nic Cage does well with what he’s given, and delivers even the hokiest of lines quite well. However he’s probably also wondering what the heck was wrong with the director and scriptwriter for spoiling this film!

Worth a view if you’re bored, but don’t go out of your way to see it!

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