Knowing is a 2009 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.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alex Proyas|
|Story by||Ryne Douglas Pearson|
|Music by||Marco Beltrami|
|Edited by||Richard Learoyd|
|Distributed by||Summit Entertainment|
|Country||United States |
|Box office||$186.5 million|
The film was released on March 20, 2009, in the United States. The DVD and Blu-ray media were released on July 7, 2009. Knowing grossed $186.5 million at the worldwide box office, plus $27.7 million with home video sales, against a production budget of $50 million. It met with mixed reviews, with praise for the acting performances, visual style and atmosphere, but criticism over some implausibilities.
In 1959, a Lexington, Massachusetts elementary school celebrates its opening with a competition in which students draw what they believe will happen in the future; the works will be stored in a time capsule that will be opened in fifty years. All of the children create visual works except for Lucinda Embry, who is guided by whispering voices to fill both sides of her paper with a series of numbers with no apparent meaning. Before she can write the final numbers, the allotted time for the task expires and the teacher withdraws the students' drawings. The next day, as the time capsule is buried, the teacher finds Lucinda in a utility closet, engraving the remaining numbers into the door with her fingernails. In 2009, the current class opens the time capsule and distributes the drawings inside among the students. Lucinda's sheet is given to Caleb Koestler, the nine-year-old son of the widowed MIT astrophysics professor John Koestler. John examines Lucinda's sequence of numbers and realizes that it is a coded message that predicts, with perfect precision, the dates and death tolls of major catastrophes over the past fifty years. However, three of the reported events have yet to happen, and one of the dates corresponds to the following day.
By coincidence, John is present during the next catastrophic event: a plane crash in which 81 people lose their lives. John learns that Lucinda's sheet also contains the geographical coordinates of the events. Interpreting the following numbers, John tries and fails to prevent a derailment on the New York City Subway. John becomes convinced that his family has a significant role in these incidents: his wife died in one of the earlier events reported by Lucinda, while Caleb was the one to receive Lucinda's message. Meanwhile, Caleb begins to hear the same voices that Lucinda did. To prevent the last event, John tracks down Lucinda's daughter Diana and her granddaughter Abby. After some initial disbelief, Diana goes with John to Lucinda's childhood home, where they find a copy of Matthäus Merian's engraving of Ezekiel's "chariot vision", in which a great sun is represented. They also discover that the final two digits of Lucinda's message are not numbers, but two E's written in reverse. Underneath Lucinda's bed, their meaning is found to be "Everyone Else". During this search, Caleb and Abby, who were left asleep in the car, have an encounter with the beings who are the source of the whispers.
The next day, Abby colors in the sun on the engraving, which gives John a revelation. He rushes to the MIT observatory and learns that a massive solar flare will hit the Earth on the last date indicated by the message. As Diana and Abby prepare to take refuge underground, John finds the door on which Lucinda engraved the final numbers, and identifies them as coordinates of a place where salvation from the solar flare can be found. The disbelieving and terrified Diana loads both Caleb and Abby into her car and flees for the caves. At a gas station, the whispering beings steal her car with Caleb and Abby inside. Diana pursues them, but is killed in an accident. The beings take Caleb and Abby to Lucinda's mobile home, where John encounters them shortly thereafter. The beings, who act as extraterrestrial angels, are leading children to safety on interstellar arks so that humanity may be rebuilt. John parts with Caleb before he and Abby are transported away by the beings. The following day, John drives through a chaotic Boston toward his estranged father's house and awaits the end of the world in the embrace of his family. The solar flare vaporizes the city and laps the Earth's surface with its fiery volutes. The ark, along with others, deposits Caleb and Abby on another world resembling an earthly paradise. The two run through a field toward a large white tree.
- 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
- Sam Velasquez as Jackson Cinq
- 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, of which the last one 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 March 25, 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; "Cooinda", a residence in Mount Macedon which was the location for all of the "home and garden" scenes; 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, the Geelong Ring Road, 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 completely obliterated as the flare spreads across the Earth's surface, destroying everything in its path.
Proyas used a Red One 4K digital camera. 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|
|Released||March 24, 2009|
- Music in the film but not released on the soundtrack
Knowing was released in 3,332 theatres in the United States and Canada on March 20, 2009, and grossed US$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 March 17, 2009, Knowing ranked first in the international box office, grossing US$9.8 million at 1,711 theatres in ten markets, including first with US$3.55 million in the United Kingdom. The film had grossed US$80 million in the United States and Canada and US$107 million in other territories for a worldwide total of US$186.5 million, plus US$27.7 million with home video sales, against a production budget of US$50 million.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 33% of critics gave the film positive reactions based upon a sample of 181 critics with an average rating of 4.71/10. The site's consensus states: "Knowing has some interesting ideas and a couple good scenes, but it's weighted down by its absurd plot and over-seriousness". Metacritic gave the film a score of 41% based on 27 reviews, indicating "mixed or average 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." Richard von Busack of Metroactive derided the striking similarity between the film and the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood's End.
Home media release Edit
Knowing was released on DVD on July 7, 2009, opening in the United States at No. 1 for the week and selling 773,000 DVD units for US$12.5 million in revenue. In total, 1.4 million DVD units were sold in the United States for a US$21.1 million and US$25 million worldwide. From Blu-ray sales, the film also earned US$1.6 million in the United States and a total of US$2.6 million worldwide. The estimated gross for global domestic video sales is US$27.6 million.
On November 25, 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 Patent US 7107286 Integrated information processing system for geospatial media. The case was dismissed on January 10, 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".
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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