Few Surprises in 'Knowing'

Friday, March 20, 2009

I know things. Terrible things. Shall I share them with you?

No, unlike John Koestler (Nicolas Cage), the hero of "Knowing," who comes across a 50-year-old list of numbers that somehow seems to have predicted -- down to the precise date and location -- every major disaster of the last half-century, plus a few that haven't happened yet, I cannot see into the future. But I have seen the movie. And I can tell you this:

There will be creepy kids in it. Kids who stare off into space, hear voices and have visions.

There will be creepy adults in it, too. Adults who lurk in the woods, wear trench coats and look like Rutger Hauer, circa "Blade Runner." (They're the "whisper people," who talk to the kids without opening their mouths.)

There will be a protagonist (Cage) whose problems -- alcohol abuse, the recent death of his wife -- make him sound unhinged when he tries to warn people of the coming apocalypse.

There will be the discovery of a creepy room plastered with creepy, old newspaper clippings.

And there will be a constant and mysterious shortage of overhead lighting, necessitating the frequent use of flashlights and creepy string music.

Yes, "Knowing" is creepy, at least for the first two-thirds or so, in a moderately satisfying, if predictable, way. And it nicely plays off the zeitgeist of dread about the future and our still-lingering regrets about whether -- if we'd only heeded the warning signs -- we could have prevented such things as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the narrative corner into which this movie, directed by Alex Proyas ("I, Robot"), paints itself is a simultaneously silly and morbidly depressing one.

Well before the film neared its by turns dismal and ditzy conclusion, I found myself knowing -- yet hardly able to believe -- what was about to happen.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

Knowing PG-13, 121 minutes Contains disturbing scenes of carnage and brief vulgar language. Area theaters.

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