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Knowing (stylized as KNOW1NG)[3] 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.

A picture of the Earth from space, the edge is glowing as if on fire.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlex Proyas
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byRyne Douglas Pearson
Music byMarco Beltrami
CinematographySimon Duggan
Edited byRichard Learoyd
Distributed bySummit Entertainment
Release date
  • March 20, 2009 (2009-03-20)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$50 million[1][2]
Box office$186.5 million[2]

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, Lucinda Embry hears whispers while staring at the Sun. When her idea to make a time capsule is chosen by the school, each child draws what they believe that the future will look like. Lucinda writes a page of seemingly random numbers for the time capsule, which is to be opened in fifty years. Lucinda's teacher calls for the pupils to finish, but Lucinda continues until her teacher takes the page off her desk unfinished. Lucinda goes missing after the time capsule is dedicated, and is found in a utility closet, scratching numbers into the door with her fingernails bleeding.

In 2009, Caleb Koestler is attending the elementary school where Lucinda used to go. When the time capsule is opened, Caleb is supposed to read and write about some of the capsule's contents. He is given Lucinda's page of numbers. His widowed father, John, an astrophysics professor at MIT, notices that the numbers have a set of sequences, with digits referring to the dates and death tolls of disasters over the last fifty years, including 911012996, representing the date and death toll of the September 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, containing two strangers. They give Caleb a small black stone.

John witnesses a plane crash on a freeway on the day that the paper predicted that a disaster would occur. He unsuccessfully tries to save several victims. He then learns that the remaining unexplained digits on the paper are the geographic coordinates of the location of each disaster predicted on the paper. Caleb has a vision of one of the strangers in his bedroom. He looks through the window and sees the forest outside his room ablaze, with animals running from the fire.

Copy of Matthäus Merian's engraving of Ezekiel's "chariot vision" (1670)

John meets Lucinda's daughter, Diana, and her granddaughter, Abby. After hearing about the events that happened, Diana becomes apprehensive and scared. John then gives up his son to his sister. Soon afterward, a major derailment occurs on the New York City Subway, which John fails to prevent. Diana then believes John and visits him. She says that her mother used to hear voices, and that the next and last date in the document, October 19, 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 at first to be "33", but they notice that it is really "EE" written backward. They determine that EE means "Everyone Else", representing an Extinction Level Event.

The next day, Abby shows John that she has colored in the sun on the Ezekiel's "Chariot vision" engraving. After seeing the image, John gets a revelation as he realizes that this could be how the world will end. He rushes them to the MIT observatory, where he discovers that a massive solar flare will soon reach Earth, making it virtually uninhabitable. John and Diana debate over how to prepare for the solar flare. Diana leaves with both children. As Diana stops at a nearby gas station, an emergency broadcast is transmitted to alert the world of the solar flare. While Diana is on the phone with John, the strangers take the children. Diana chases after them, but her car is hit by a truck. John, rushing to catch up with them, arrives just as Diana dies, and finds the 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 similar black stones. A space ship descends from the sky, and the strangers beckon the children to depart with them. After John is denied entry, he embraces his son one last time before allowing him to leave and the ship departs with the children. Many similar space ships leave the Earth.

The next morning, John drives to his estranged father's home as the world descends into anarchy from the pending disaster. John and his family embrace as the flare wave ignites the Earth, killing all life on the surface. Caleb and Abby are deposited on an Earth-like planet, and they walk towards a large tree in the middle of a field while the other space ships land nearby.



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.[4] 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.[5] 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".[4] Summit Entertainment took on the responsibility to fully finance and distribute the film. Proyas and Stuart Hazeldine rewrote the draft for production,[6] which began on March 25, 2008 in Melbourne, Australia.[7] The director hoped to emulate The Exorcist in melding "realism with a fantastical premise".[8]

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.[4] 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.[1] Filming also took place at Camberwell High School, which was converted into the fictional William Dawes Elementary, located in 1959 Lexington.[9][10] Interior shots took place at the Australian Synchrotron to represent an observatory.[11][12] Filming also took place at the Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts.[13] In addition to practical locations, filming also took place at the Melbourne Central City Studios in Docklands.[14] 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.[4] 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.[15]

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."[16]


The music for the film was written by Marco Beltrami, but also features classical works such as Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven) - Allegretto,[17] which is played without any accompanying sound effects in the final Boston disaster scene of the film.[18] Beltrami released the soundtrack as a CD with 22 tracks.[19]

Knowing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMarch 24, 2009 (2009-03-24)
GenreFilm score
LabelVarèse Sarabande
Music in the film but not released on the soundtrack


Box officeEdit

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,[20] placing first at the box office.[21] According to exit polling, 63% of the audience was 25 years old and up and evenly split between genders.[22] 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.[23] 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.[2]

Critical responseEdit

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 33% of critics gave the film positive reactions based upon a sample of 180 critics with an average rating of 4.7/10. 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".[24] Metacritic gave the film a score of 41% based on 27 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[25]

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."[26] 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".[27]

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."[28] 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."[29]

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."[30] 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."[31] 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."[32] 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."[33] Richard von Busack of Metroactive derided the striking similarity between the film and the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood's End.[34]


The film was nominated at the 8th Visual Effects Society Awards in the category of "Best Single Visual Effect of the Year" for the plane crash sequence.[35]

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.[36]


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.[37][38][39][40] The case was dismissed on January 10, 2011.[41]

Science controversyEdit

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".[42]

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.[43]

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.[42]

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".[44]

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.[45] Cage plays an astrophysicist at MIT in the film.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Ziffer, Daniel (April 7, 2008). "Night at the museum". The Age. Australia. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Knowing". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  3. ^ See official movie trailer on YouTube. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Knowing All: The Making of a Futuristic Thriller. Knowing DVD.
  5. ^ Laporte, Nicole (February 16, 2005). "Proyas digs Knowing gig". Variety. Retrieved May 20, 2008.
  6. ^ Fleming, Michael (December 10, 2007). "Cage to star in Proyas' Knowing". Variety. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  7. ^ "Byrne Set for Sci-Fi Thriller Knowing". Animation World Network. March 4, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  8. ^ Vejvoda, Jim (July 24, 2008). "SDCC 08: Knowing When to Push". IGN. Retrieved November 27, 2008.
  9. ^ Nye, Doug (July 7, 2009). "Grumpy Old Men,' Knowing' top short list of new Blu-ray releases". Victoria Advocate. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
  10. ^ Metlikovec, Jane (March 30, 2008). "Nicolas Cage goes back to school". Herald Sun. Australia. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  11. ^ Bernecich, Adrian (October 28, 2008). "Powerhouse for research". Waverly Gazette.
  12. ^ "International Film Shot at Australian Synchrotron" (PDF). Lightspeed. Australian Synchrotron Company, Ltd. April 1, 2008. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  13. ^ Minch, Jack (September 23, 2008). "Hollywood coming to Westford". The Sun.
  14. ^ Wigney, James (April 27, 2008). "Nicolas's golden cage an empty shell". Herald Sun. Australia. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  15. ^ "Knowing Film Locations." On the Set of New York. N.p., n.d. Web. April 9, 2012. <>.
  16. ^ Minnick, Remy (August 12, 2008). "Alex Proyas: And Knowing Is Half The Battle". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  17. ^ a b c "Knowing (2009) Soundtrack". Soundtrack.Net. Autotelics, LLC. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  18. ^ "KNOWING-The End of the World". YouTube. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
  19. ^ "Knowing (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Varèse Sarabande. Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  20. ^ "Knowing (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  21. ^ McClintock, Pamela (March 22, 2009). "Knowing tops weekend box office". Variety. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
  22. ^ Gray, Brandon (March 23, 2009). "Weekend Report: Knowing Digs Up the Digits". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 5, 2009.
  23. ^ McNary, Dave (March 29, 2009). "Knowing tops foreign box office". Variety. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
  24. ^ "Knowing (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  25. ^ "Knowing Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Scott, A. O. (March 20, 2009). "Extinction Looms! Stop the Aliens!". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  27. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (March 20, 2009). "Movie review: Knowing funny for a thriller". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  28. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (March 20, 2009). "Few Surprises in Knowing". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  29. ^ Sharkey, Betsy (March 20, 2009). "Review: Knowing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  30. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 22, 2009). "Love and hate and "Knowing" -- or, do wings have angels?". Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  31. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 18, 2009). "Knowing". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  32. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (March 27, 2009). "Film review: Knowing". The Guardian. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  33. ^ French, Philip (March 29, 2009). "Film review: Knowing". The Observer. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  34. ^ von Busack, Richard (March 25, 2009). "Tribulation 99. 'Knowing': Bad day with black rocks". Metroactive. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  35. ^ "8th Annual VES Awards". visual effects society. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  36. ^ "Knowing (2009) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  37. ^ "Complaint" (PDF). Courthouse News. November 30, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  38. ^ Gardner, Eriq (December 2, 2009). "Can a science-fiction movie infringe a tech patent?". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  39. ^ Crouch, Dennis. "Patents and the Movie Industry: Stopping Nicholas Cage". PatentlyO blog. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  40. ^ "GLOBAL FINDABILITY, INC. v. SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT, LLC et al". Justia. November 25, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  41. ^ "Case Docket for No. 09-2247". PACER docket saved on Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  42. ^ a b Erin McCarthy Knowing Blends Science Fact with Fiction Popular Mechanics, Retrieved January 5, 2012
  43. ^ Ian O'Neill "Knowing" How Solar Flares Don’t Work Astro Engine, Retrieved January 5, 2012
  44. ^ Steve Biodrowski Knowing - Science Fiction Film Review Cinefantastique, Retrieved January 5, 2012
  45. ^ "August Coppola, arts educator, dies at 75." San Francisco Chronicle

External linksEdit