Knowing is a 2009 science fiction disaster 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 Melbourne, Australia, using various locations to represent the film's Boston-area setting. The film was released on March 20, 2009, in the United States. The DVD and Blu-ray media were released on July 7, 2009.

Plot Edit

In 1959, at William Dawes Elementary School in Lexington, Massachusetts, a time capsule containing students' drawings of their ideas of the future is buried and set to be ceremoniously opened 50 years later. A girl named Lucinda Embry contributes a page full of seemingly random numbers although she is stopped before she completes the page. That night, she is found in a school closet, where she has scratched the remaining numbers on the door with her bare hands, and she has complained about hearing voices in her head.

In present day, the time capsule is opened and the drawings are given to the current students. A boy named Caleb receives Lucinda's envelope. His father, John Koestler, a widower and professor of astrophysics at MIT, takes interest in the paper and soon realizes some of the digits represent the dates and death tolls of every major disaster over the past fifty years, and suggests three disasters still to come. Meanwhile Caleb begins receiving visits from mysterious figures in overcoats, "The Strangers". During these encounters he hears their overlapping telepathic whispers.

John witnesses a commercial plane crash while on a freeway on the date that the paper had next predicted a disaster would occur, and he discovers that the unexplained digits on the paper are the geographic coordinates of the events. Speaking with Lucinda's former teacher, John learns of Lucinda's closet episode, and also that she had since died after a medication overdose. He then meets Lucinda's daughter, Diana Wayland, but is rebuffed once he mentions Lucinda's paper. But after John uses the numbers to correctly predict another disaster — a Manhattan subway train derailment which John tries and fails to prevent — Diana seeks out John, and together they go to investigate Lucinda's old remote mobile home. Having noticed that the last date on the paper is not accompanied by coordinates, further clues in Lucinda's home lead John and Diana to realize that the "33" listed as the death toll for the final disaster is actually "EE" reversed, which Lucinda meant to represent "Everyone Else." In the woods outside the home, John confronts one of the Strangers, who disappears in a flash of light and a deep, resonating noise. It is revealed that Diana's daughter Abby can hear the Strangers' eerie whispers as well.

John and a fellow professor forecast that a massive solar flare will soon reach Earth, and the final disaster on Lucinda's paper will most likely destroy all life on the planet. John then examines the door of the closet in which Lucinda was found and discovers it is where she had scratched another set of coordinates. They represent the location of Lucinda's old mobile home, and John decides it is somehow a refuge from the impending disaster. Diana insists they seek shelter in some little-known underground caves instead and she takes Abby and Caleb, without John's knowledge, to go there. As panic erupts after news of the flare is announced, the Strangers drive off in Diana's car with Caleb and Abby still inside. Diana steals a truck and gives chase but is killed when she is broadsided by a truck.

At Lucinda's mobile home, John finds the children with the four Strangers as a glowing vessel descends from the sky. The Strangers dispossess themselves of their human appearance and reveal themselves as glowing, translucent figures surrounded by wisps of light. The Strangers invite only those who can hear their whispers to leave Earth with them. John convinces Caleb to go with them, and the vessel departs with the two children. From the vantage point of space, similar ships are seen taking off from Earth, implying a future for the human race.

The next morning, John travels to Boston to be with his sister and parents. While he had distanced himself from religion, John reconciles with his estranged father, a Christian minister. John and his family embrace as the solar flare strikes Earth, vaporizing the ozone layer and incinerating all life on the planet. Elsewhere, Caleb and Abby are dropped off in an otherworldly field as other ships are visible along the horizon, dropping off others. The film ends as the two make their way towards a large, white, solitary tree in the distance, perhaps the Tree of Life.

Cast Edit

Production Edit

Knowing was originally written by novelist Ryne Douglas Pearson and 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.[1] Summit Entertainment took on the responsibility to fully finance and distribute the film. Proyas and Stuart Hazeldine rewrote the draft for production,[2] which began on March 25, 2008 in Melbourne, Australia.[3] The director hoped to emulate The Exorcist in melding "realism with a fantastical premise".[4] The film is set primarily in the town of Lexington with some scenes set in the nearby cities of Cambridge and Boston. To represent the Boston area, filmmakers used Australian locations such as Geelong Ring Road, the Melbourne Museum, Mount Macedon, and Collins Street.[5]

Filming also took place at Camberwell High School, which was converted into the fictional William Dawes Elementary, located in 1959 Lexington.[6][7] Interior shots took place at the Australian Synchrotron to represent an observatory.[8][9] Filming also took place at the Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts.[10] In addition to practical locations, filming also took place at the Melbourne Central City Studios in Docklands.[11] Proyas used a Red One digital camera, making the film the first time the director used digital cameras.[12] He sought to capture a gritty and realistic look to the film, and his approach involved a continuous two-minute take in which Cage's character sees a plane crash and attempts to rescue passengers. The take 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."[13]


Knowing received mixed-to-negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 33% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based upon a sample of 160 critics with an average score of 4.7 out of 10, although the Rotten Tomatoes community gave the film a 48% rating.[14] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 41 out of 100 based on 27 reviews.[15] The consensus observed that Knowing had "some interesting ideas and a couple of good scenes" but was hampered "by its absurd plot and over-seriousness".[14]

A. O. Scott of the New York Times said, "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."[16] In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Hartlaub called the film "a disappointment 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".[17]

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 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."[18] 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 mesmerizing than horrifying."[19]

Roger Ebert was enthusiastic about the film, rating it four stars and ranking it "among the best science-fiction films I've seen—frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome" in the Chicago Sun-Times. 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."[20]

Box office Edit

Knowing was released in 3,332 theaters in the United States and Canada on March 20, 2009 and grossed $24,604,751 in its opening weekend,[21] placing first at the box office.[22] According to exit polling, 63% of the audience was 25 years old and up and evenly split between genders.[23] On the weekend of March 17, 2009, Knowing ranked first in the international box office, grossing $9.8 million at 1,711 theaters in ten markets, including first with $3.55 million in the United Kingdom.[24] As of July 26, 2009, the film had grossed $79,957,634 in the United States and Canada and $103,302,830 in other territories for a worldwide total of $183,260,464.[25]

Home media release Edit

Knowing was released on DVD on July 7, 2009 opening at #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.[26]

References Edit

External links Edit


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