Totally Random Movies: Knowing (2009)

Sometimes I feel like a bit of an odd duck in the realm of physical media fans. For me, it’s not about having the coolest and best version of a movie — well, not all the time — but instead about access. I love all the options given to us by the various streaming services, but if I want to watch Hackers or Sneakers (or BOTH), I like to have that ability. I don’t crave the slipcases or the steelbooks and, in fact, toss most of my cases and simply place the discs in binders. However, I do leave most box sets intact because it’s just cleaner. For those, I have a few bins, but I think I have about as many that I haven’t made my way through as I have, so I was excited to use my randomization process to go through at least a few of those.

I explained the process earlier and you can see this specific one if you follow me on Instagram (gotta stay hip). At some point I realized I need more Nic Cage films in my life, so I grabbed the Nicolas Cage 6-Film Collection DVD set. Sure, I’d already seen Drive Angry and Bangkok Dangerous, but twelve bucks seemed like the exact right price to have them and a few other options were I to feel Cage-y. And yet, it sat on my shelf since I purchased it in 2021. Thanks to chance, I finally cracked it open and watched, well, a weird movie!

I knew that Knowing existed and that it had some kind of conspiracy element to it, but that’s about it. I was stunned to learn that it’s from director Alex Proyas who did The Crow, Dark City and I, Robot, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone saying anything about this movie!

So here’s the deal. In 1959, a troubled little girl named Lucinda wrote numbers on both sides of a sheet of paper that went into the school’s time capsule along with a bunch of drawings and whatnot. Half a century later, the school pulls up the time capsule and hands out the drawings to the kids with Lucinda’s winding up in the hands of Caleb, the son of John, the widower scientist played by our buddy Cage. He drinks a lot because he misses his wife and being a single parent is hard, but one night he looks at the paper and starts to realize there’s a pattern. The numbers translate into dates of disasters, the number of people who died and — as he figures out later — longitude and latitude coordinates.

John tries convincing his pal and fellow scientist Phil (Ben Mendelsohn!!!), but strikes out at first so he starts looking into Lucinda’s life and meets her daughter Diana played by Rose Byrne. Together they begin to finally uncover what the numbers are and, more importantly what they mean, leading to an ending that would have been a real stunner…had I not read too much of the IMDb Trivia for this one early on in the film.

Let’s get into SPOILERS for this paragraph. I’ll admit, I was a little thrown throughout the film by the fact that we were not only dealing with this crazy number sequence, BUT ALSO these weird dudes who kept showing up to Caleb and other kids, giving them smooth black rocks. By the end of the movie we’re quickly told that the strangers are actually aliens who also sent the numbers 50 years ago in hopes that it might help humanity. Instead it was buried in a time capsule where it wound up being decoded too late to really help. And yet, the aliens took the kids away anyway. If they were going to do that, what was the point of sending the code in the first place? I dunno.

As it happened, I watched this shortly after my favorite podcast How Did This Get Made? posted their episode about the Jim Carey conspiracy flick The Number 23 in which the star begins to see all sorts of connections between the title numeral and major world events. It definitely informed my viewing of Knowing which came out two years after 23, but they seem to veer in vastly different directions. It’s weird that there were so many “it’s all connected, you just have to look for it MAAAAAAN” movies as well as major disaster movies around this time, both of which Knowing can be counted.

But is it enjoyable? It wasn’t as bananas as Number 23 sounds, though I haven’t seen that one. I was hoping to get some Uncaged Nic Rage and we get a few glimpses at it, but not the full monty. This was an interesting time for his career because he was still doing high profile blockbuster flicks like the excellent National Treasure films and Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but also reminding the audience that he liked to get weird (2009 was the same year that the awesomely unhinged Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans came out, a film that has to be seen to be believed and even then you’ll wonder if you have a fever). I wonder if he was reigned in a bit by Proyas or just felt the material needed a different touch. As it is, he’s good, but I didn’t really buy him as a father. The rest of the cast — which includes Liam Hemsworth in his first on screen appearance — crushes, especially Byrne who has to deal with a lot of emotional baggage.

I will say, there’s one scene that really made me laugh, even though it wasn’t supposed to. Cage is driving frantically and decides to not only pull out the revolver that a big deal was made of earlier. Not so big, right? Welkel, he decides to hold it with his finger on the trigger. While driving. Down a bumpy dirt road. Seems to me like John’s lucky he didn’t accidentally blow his own brains out before the climax. Apologies for the terrible picture which includes a weird reflection of part of my office that’s a little trippy.

Ultimately, while the movie felt a little wonky to me, it does bring up some interesting questions that reminded me of a class I took in college. The professor asked a very interesting question about perspective that Knowing is also dealing with. I can’t remember exactly what the class was about, but we were dealing with a lot of books written in Europe when the Church was in charge, so a great deal of it revolved around Christian philosophical questions. In this case, the subject was whether a person can have free will even if God knows everything that has, can and will happen. The professor — the incredible Dr. Biehl — illustrated this with an excellent visual. Basically, picture a car accident on a downtown street. If you’re on the street, it may seem to come out of nowhere. But, if you’re on the top of a building looking down you may have seen the crash as inevitable. Does that mean that the car crash had to happen? Did they still have free will even though you could see what was going too happen? The end of the movie seems to lean into religion, which I was not expecting, but that’s because I was running this sort of question in my mind and came up with a different perspective.

Well, I certainly didn’t expect to get into a deep philosophical discussion in regards to a mostly forgotten Nic Cage movie from 2009 — that is easily rentable everywhere — but that’s what you get when you let randomization choose your films…or maybe it wasn’t so random after all!!! Just kidding, it definitely was.

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