I have studied the Bible, the Qur'an, and even bits and pieces of the Book of Mormon. All major religions have some sort of belief in apocalyptic events that will end the world as we know it. In light of that background, it's been interesting to see how horrific spectacles like the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America have influenced the arts, and in particular, movies. Since 2001, we have seen a rush of films that have played on the fears that such beliefs and events conjure in our psyche. We can't just have a movie that features a villain ... now the villain is Armageddon, or an unstoppable force ready to destroy mankind. It's as if the stakes need to be raised to the greatest degree in order to have any impact anymore; we've already seen monumental and cataclysmic nightmares play out on our television screens, so anything at the movies needs to be even larger and more terrifying. Even though we've recently had several years of Hollywood-sized, Earth-threatening disaster movies at the multiplexes, I would venture that none of them can compare to the pure nerve of the new Alex Proyas film Knowing. Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere correctly called it Doomsday Porn. While he's right, the film is even more bizarre, ambitious, and ludicrous than that moniker could ever attempt to describe. It nearly left me speechless, which in itself might be a sign of the Apocalypse. Nicolas Cage stars as Professor John Koestler, a brilliant university teacher with a young son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). Koestler's wife died in a tragic plane crash, which haunts Koestler's drunken nights alone with his son. However, Koestler's life is turned completely around when a fifty year-old time capsule is pulled from the ground at Caleb's school, and a mysterious piece of paper inside contains prophetic codes for every major world disaster. Soon, Koestler begins unlocking this code, which seems to point to a cataclysmic global event ... meanwhile, Caleb is being hounded by strange men in black who whisper to him. I will not give away the jaw-dropping events of the second half, primarily because words on a page cannot do justice to the sheer lunacy and BALLS of this film. I actually laughed out loud at the last few minutes of this film, mostly because the nerve of Proyas and screenwriters Ryne Douglas Pearson and Juliet Snowden display here is shocking. This might be the nuttiest major Hollywood film since National Treasure. Speaking of which, does Nicolas Cage own this particular genre of oddball, conspiracy-theory pulp filmmaking? With the National Treasure movies, The Wicker Manremake, and this, he seems to be trying to tell us something about his mindset through his film choices. Which is welcomed, since it's impossible to read any of those thoughts off of his frozen and inexpressive performance here. Cage is wildly uneven to the point of humorous, limp and dour one moment, then frantically flailing and screaming the next. None of Cage's scenes connect with each other to create a believable portrait of Koestler, which then seriously undermines the ability of the audience to swallow the preposterous pills in the script. And oh, what a script! It clumsily combines aliens, Armageddon, Independence Day, religious fervor, code-breaking thrillers, and The Ring-style scares. And that's before we get to the very last scene, with then attempts to tie it all up in a pretty little 2001-style bow. It's absolutely bizarre, but I give credit to the power of religiously-fueled imagination on this one. I imagine Kirk Cameron and the religious right are masturbating furiously to this fever-dream concoction. Despite my reservations about the sanity of the entire production, I must admit that Proyas and company have fashioned something so outthere that it does, at times, contain entertainment value. Proyas stages an airline disaster that is very effective and immediate, calling to mind the extended and brilliant war scene near the end of Children of Men. There is also a subway sequence that is brutally effective as well. There is also a stunning car crash near the end that really took me by surprise as well. Unfortunately, these effective moments sandwich some of the most unbelievable nonsense I've ever seen in a major motion picture. I can't say that I don't recommend the film ... even though I don't think it's very good by any stretch of my engorged imagination. This is a film so far out of its own mind that seeing it would bring heavily-sedated mental patients back to reality. All I can recommend for sure is that you take whatever drug you choose before seeing it, and bring some friends along to laugh with afterwards. Wooooo ... amazing and bizarre ...
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Twitter: @rayderousse or @unfilteredlens1
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