Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alex Proyas|
|Story by||Ryne Douglas Pearson|
|Music by||Marco Beltrami|
|Edited by||Richard Learoyd|
|Distributed by||Summit Entertainment|
Knowing is a 2009 American-British science fiction thriller film directed by Alex Proyas and starring Nicolas Cage. The project was originally attached to a number of directors under Columbia Pictures, but it was placed in turnaround and eventually picked up by Escape Artists. Production was financially backed by Summit Entertainment. Knowing was filmed in Docklands Studios Melbourne, Australia, using various locations to represent the film's Boston-area setting.
The film was released on 20 March 2009, in the United States. The DVD and Blu-ray media were released on 7 July 2009. Knowing met with mixed reviews, with praise towards the acting performances, visual style and atmosphere, but had criticism over the implausibilities and unbelievable plot twists.
In 1959, student Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) hears whispers as she stares at the sun. When her class is chosen to contribute to the school's Time Capsule, each child is asked to draw what they believe the future will look like. Lucinda writes a page of seemingly random numbers and adds it to her elementary school's time capsule, which is set to be opened in 50 years. Lucinda's teacher calls for the pupils to finish but Lucinda continues before her teacher takes it off her desk unfinished. Lucinda then goes missing after the time capsule is dedicated, and is found by her teacher, Mrs. Taylor (Danielle Carter), in a utility closet scratching numbers into the door with her fingernails bleeding.
In 2009, Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) is a pupil at the same elementary school. When the time capsule is opened, Caleb is supposed to read and write about some of the capsule's contents. He's given the page of numbers written by Lucinda. His widowed father John (Nicolas Cage), a professor of astrophysics at MIT, notices the numbers have a specific set of sequences referring to the times, number of deaths, and locations of fatal disasters over the last 50 years, including 911012996 (the date and death toll of the 9/11 attacks). The last three sets of digits on the page are dated in the immediate future.
In the following days, a car drives by the family home with two strangers. They give Caleb a small smooth stone. Caleb later dreams of one of the strange men, who points to the window showing the world on fire with burning animals running out from a forest.
John tracks down Lucinda's daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) and granddaughter Abby. Though initially apprehensive and scared, after seeing one of the number sets result in another disaster, Diana decides to help John. She says that her mother used to hear voices and that the next (and also last) date in the document, 19 October, was the day Lucinda always said Diana would die. Searching Lucinda's mobile home, they find pictures of the disasters she predicted, a copy of Matthäus Merian's engraving of Ezekiel's "chariot vision", and a pile of small smooth stones near Lucinda's bed. The last number in the document appears to be "33" but they notice that it is really "EE" written backwards. They figure out that EE means "Everyone Else," representing an Extinction Level Event that no one will escape.
Outside, more strangers walk up to the children waiting in the car. John drives them away only to have Abby say that the "whisper people" want her and Caleb to go with them.
The next day, John has a sudden revelation and rushes them to the MIT observatory, where he discovers that a massive solar flare will soon reach Earth, making it uninhabitable. Diana wants to hide in some caves. Jonathan reluctantly agrees at first and continues to investigate Lucinda's numbers. Frustrated by his delay, Diana decides to take the children to the caves without him.
While Diana stops for gas, an emergency broadcast is transmitted to alert the world of the solar flare. John calls Diana to tell her that the caves are not safe at all as the flare's radiation will penetrate over a mile into the Earth's crust and kill every living being, even bacteria. While on the phone, the strangers take the children. Diana chases after them but is broadsided by a truck. John, rushing to catch up with them, arrives just as Diana dies at exactly midnight of October 19 and finds the smooth, black stone in Diana's hand. He goes back to Lucinda's mobile home, finding the children and the strangers waiting in a dry river bed covered with the similar black stones. A space ship descends from the sky. John is refused entry but allows his son to leave with the strangers, who are revealed to be otherworldly beings, perhaps angels. The ship departs with the children and a pair of rabbits, and a distant shot shows many similar vehicles leaving Earth.
The next morning the skies are on fire from the solar flare. John drives calmly while listening to classical music through the chaos within the streets of Boston, arriving at his estranged father's home. Together they embrace as the solar flare burns away the atmosphere. A wall of fire incinerates Boston and Manhattan and burns away the entire surface of the Earth, destroying all life on the planet.
Caleb and Abby are deposited by the beings on an Earth-like planet. In the final scene they are seen running through a beautiful field of grass towards a giant white tree which resembles the Tree of Life.
- Nicolas Cage as Professor Jonathan "John" Koestler
- Rose Byrne as Diana Wayland / Lucinda Embry-Wayland (photograph)
- Chandler Canterbury as Caleb Koestler
- Joshua Long as Young Caleb
- Lara Robinson as Young Lucinda Embry / Abby Wayland / Young Diana Wayland (photograph)
- Nadia Townsend as Grace Koestler
- Ben Mendelsohn as Professor Phil Beckman
- Alan Hopgood as Reverend Koestler
- Benita Collings as Mrs. Koestler
- Adrienne Pickering as Allison Koestler
- Liam Hemsworth as Spencer
- Ra Chapman as Jessica
- Lesley Anne Mitchell as Stacy
- Gareth Yuen as Donald
- Verity Charlton as Kim
- Tamara Donnellan as Mrs. Embry
- Travis Waite as Mr. Embry
- D.G. Maloney, Joel Bow, Maximillian Paul, and Karen Hadfield as The Strangers
- David Lennie as Principal Clark in 1959
- Carolyn Shakespeare-Allen as Principal in 2009
- Alethea McGrath as Priscilla Taylor in 2009
- Danielle Carter as Priscilla Taylor in 1959
In 2001, novelist Ryne Douglas Pearson approached producers Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal with his idea for a film, where a time capsule from the 1950s is opened revealing fulfilled prophecies, the last one of which ended with 'EE' - "everyone else". The producers liked the concept and bought his script. The project was set up at Columbia Pictures. Both Rod Lurie and Richard Kelly were attached as directors, but the film eventually went into turnaround. The project was picked up by the production company Escape Artists, and the script was rewritten by Stiles White and Juliet Snowden. Director Alex Proyas was attached to direct the project in February 2005. Proyas said the aspect that attracted him the most was the "very different script" and the notion of people seeing the future and "how it shape their lives". Summit Entertainment took on the responsibility to fully finance and distribute the film. Proyas and Stuart Hazeldine rewrote the draft for production, which began on 25 March 2008 in Melbourne, Australia. The director hoped to emulate The Exorcist in melding "realism with a fantastical premise".
The film is set primarily in the town of Lexington with some scenes set in the nearby cities of Cambridge and Boston. However, it was shot in Australia, where director Proyas resides. Locations included the Geelong Ring Road, the Melbourne Museum, Mount Macedon and Collins Street. Filming also took place at Camberwell High School, which was converted into the fictional William Dawes Elementary, located in 1959 Lexington. Interior shots took place at the Australian Synchrotron to represent an observatory. Filming also took place at the Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts. In addition to practical locations, filming also took place at the Melbourne Central City Studios in Docklands. The plane crash, which was mostly shown in one take in the film, was done in a nearly-finished freeway outside Melbourne, mixing practical effects and pieces of a plane with computer-generated elements. The scenographic rain led to the usage of a new gel for the flames so the fire would not be put out, and semi-permanent make-up to make them last the long shooting hours. The solar flare destruction sequence is set in New York City, showing notable landmarks such as the Metlife Building, Times Square and the Empire State Building being obliterated.
Proyas used a Red One 4K digital camera, making the film the first time the director used digital cameras. He sought to capture a gritty and realistic look to the film, and his approach involved a continuous two-minute scene in which Cage's character sees a plane crash and attempts to rescue passengers. The scene was an arduous task, taking two days to set up and two days to shoot. Proyas explained the goal, "I did that specifically to not let the artifice of visual effects and all the cuts and stuff we can do, get in the way of the emotion of the scene."
The music for the film was written by Marco Beltrami, but also features classical works such as Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven) - Allegretto, which is played without any accompanying sound effects in the final Boston disaster scene of the film. Beltrami released the soundtrack as a CD with 22 tracks.
|Knowing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Marco Beltrami|
|Released||24 March 2009|
|4.||"John and Caleb"||1:59|
|7.||"Not a Kid Anymore"||1:56|
|8.||"Moose on the Loose"||2:20|
|9.||"Stalking the Waylands"||1:24|
|11.||"It's the Sun"||2:44|
|18.||"Shock and Aww"||4:00|
|20.||"Roll Over Beethoven"||4:15|
|21.||"New World Round"||2:59|
|22.||"Who Wants an Apple?"||1:35|
- Music in the film but not released on the soundtrack
- "The Planets: Op. 43: IV Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity" - written by Gustav Holst
- "News Theme" - written and performed by Guy Gross
- "Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, in (1811-1812)" - composed by Ludwig van Beethoven and performed by Sydney Scoring Orchestra
Knowing received mixed to negative reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 34% of critics gave the film positive reactions based upon a sample of 176 critics with an average score of 4.7 out of 10. The site's consensus observed that Knowing had "some interesting ideas and a couple of good scenes" At Metacritic the film has received an average score of 41 out of 100 based on 27 reviews.
A. O. Scott of The New York Times gave the film a negative review and wrote, "If your intention is to make a brooding, hauntingly allegorical terror-thriller, it's probably not a good sign when spectacles of mass death and intimations of planetary destruction are met with hoots and giggles ... The draggy, lurching two hours of “Knowing” will make you long for the end of the world, even as you worry that there will not be time for all your questions to be answered." In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Hartlaub called the film "an excitement for fans of Proyas" and "a surprisingly messy effort." He thought Nicolas Cage "borders on ridiculous here, in part because of a script that gives him little to do but freak out or act depressed".
Writing for The Washington Post, Michael O'Sullivan thought the film was "creepy, at least for the first two-thirds or so, in a moderately satisfying, if predictable, way ... But the narrative corner into which this movie... paints itself is a simultaneously brilliant and exciting 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." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times found it to be "moody and sometimes ideologically provocative" and added, "Knowing has its grim moments—and by that I mean the sort of cringe- (or laugh-) inducing lines of dialogue that have haunted disaster films through the ages ... So visually arresting are the images that watching a deconstructing airliner or subway train becomes more mesmerising than horrifying."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was enthusiastic, rating it four stars out of four and writing, "Knowing is among the best science-fiction films I've seen—frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome" He continued, "With expert and confident storytelling, Proyas strings together events that keep tension at a high pitch all through the film. Even a few quiet, human moments have something coiling beneath. Pluck this movie, and it vibrates." Ebert later listed it as the sixth best film of 2009.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian suggested Knowing was saved by its ending, concluding that "the film sticks to its apocalyptic guns with a spectacular and thoroughly unexpected finish." Philip French's review in The Observer suggested the premise was "intriguing B-feature apocalypse, determinism versus free-will stuff" and that the ending has something for everyone: "A chosen few will apparently be swept away by angels to a better place. If you're a Christian fundamentalist who believes that Armageddon is nigh, you'll have a family hug and wake up to be greeted by St Peter at the Pearly Gates. On the other hand, Darwinists will be gratified to see Gaia and her stellar opposite numbers sock it to an unconcerned mankind."
Knowing was released in 3,332 theatres in the United States and Canada on 20 March 2009 and grossed $24,604,751 in its opening weekend, placing first at the box office. According to exit polling, 63% of the audience was 25 years old and up and evenly split between genders. On the weekend of 17 March 2009, Knowing ranked first in the international box office, grossing $9.8 million at 1,711 theatres in ten markets, including first with $3.55 million in the United Kingdom. As of 26 July 2009, the film had grossed $79,957,634 in the United States and Canada and $107,901,008 in other territories for a worldwide total of $187,858,642.
Home media release
Knowing was released on DVD on 7 July 2009 opening at No.1 for the week, selling 773,000 DVD units for $12,508,192 in revenue. As per the latest figures, 1,521,797 DVD units have been sold, bringing in $22,968,367 in revenue. This does not include DVD/Blu-rentals or Blu-ray sales.
On 25 November 2009, Global Findability filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Summit Entertainment and Escape Artists in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that a geospatial entity object code was used in the film Knowing which infringed U.S. Patent No. 7,107,286 entitled "Integrated Spatial Information Processing System for Geospatial Positioning". The case was dismissed on 10 January 2011.
Regarding the film's grounding in science, Director Alex Proyas said at a press conference, "The science was important. I wanted to make the movie credible. So of course we researched as much as we could and tried to give it as much authenticity as we could."
However, Ian O'Neill of Discovery News criticized the film's solar flare plot line, pointing out that the most powerful solar flares could never incinerate Earthly cities.
Erin McCarthy of Popular Mechanics calls attention to the film's confusion of numerology, the occult's study of how numbers like dates of birth influence human affairs, with the ability of science to describe the world mathematically to make predictions about things like weather or create technology like cell phones.
Steve Biodrowski of Cinefantastique refers to the film's approach as disappointingly "pseudo-scientific." He writes, "Cage plays an astronomer, and his discussions with a colleague hint that the film may actually grapple with the question of predicting the future, perhaps even offer a plausible theory. Unfortunately, this approach is abandoned as Koestler pursues the disasters, and the film eventually moves into a mystical approach."
Asked about his research for the role, Nicolas Cage stated, "I grew up with a professor, so that was all the research I ever needed." His father, August Coppola, was a professor of comparative literature at Cal State Long Beach. Cage plays an astrophysicist at MIT in the film.
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- Official website
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- Knowing at Metacritic
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