Knowing (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language.
Length: 121 minutes
Grade: BCCB=C+
Budget: $50 million
Box Office: $169 million (80 U.S., 76 Intl., 13 DVD)

Written by: Ryne Douglas Pearson (Mercury Rising), Juliet Snowden (Nothing worth noting), and Stiles White (Nothing worth noting).
Directed by: Alex Proyas (I Robot, Dark City, and The Crow)
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Lara Robinson, and Rose Byrne.

An astrophysicist finds himself in possession of a prophetic code from 50 years ago that seems to be accurately predicting major human disasters, and he struggles to figure out what the next event will be and how to prevent it from happening.

Entertainment Value: B
I like a good sci-fi flick that deals with the end of the world and aliens and big special effects. Unfortunately, I was right in thinking that Nicholas Cage might play a brooding, over-sensitive, reluctant hero with a marginal haircut; namely that he would play himself. I used to really like Cage before I realized that he doesn’t really have much acting range. Nonetheless, that character fits a lot of scripts, right? What I didn’t like about this was that it was far more creepy and frightening than I expected, basically indulging in some scenes which seemed to indulge in their gruesomeness. It’s certainly not a movie I would want to watch again, but I enjoyed it the first time through.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C-, Language B-, Illegality B
There is alcohol consumption, though not to drunkenness. There is one minor sexual comment and nothing else in that category. Language is mild, although I though it could have been entirely done without. Violence and scariness are the issues here. After a plane crash, victims are shown walking and burning alive, then being engulfed in an explosion. A girl scratches her fingers bloody in a wall. A train off the tracks hits and runs people over. I’d go PG-15, myself.

Significant Content: C
This movie falls into a very weird category for me. On the one hand, it winds up being based on the book of Ezekiel in the end, but the way it validates that book is certainly quite contrary to anything a Christian would envision. So, the idea here is that creepy, inexplicable things do in fact happen and have an explanation, although it may not be the explanation you’re expecting. The main theme involves determinism and free will, although I thought Cage’s exposition of the idea was actually quite weak from a philosophical point of view.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
I always like a movie that embraces its own presuppositions, following them through to the necessary logical conclusion. Akira is my favorite example of this. Knowing isn’t nearly as cool as that masterpiece, but the basic plot ideas being offered here are fully followed to the end as they have to be. I guess it’s only been this movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Indiana Jones, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Outlander, but it feels like a bunch of movies about aliens and apocalypse have come out recently. Wall-E and I Am Legend aren’t quite the same, but maybe that’s why it seems like more.

Discussion Questions:
~What was the purpose of making the main character in this movie be the son of a preacher?
~This movie is clearly raising the question of fate and whether our futures are predetermined. What view does the movie give? Do you think the world operates by determinism, or do we have free will, or do things happen at random? Is it possible to give life any meaning if it was not designed on purpose?
~If the things on the code could be written down, did writing them down actually change events? Why was the code written at all, given the end of the movie? What do you think of the authors of the code?
~If you were in possession of a truth that you knew everyone else would think you were insane for embracing, would you tell people about it? How is Cage’s relationship to the prophetic code like our relationship to the Gospel?
~How do we decide whether someone is sane or insane? What sort of beliefs might qualify for saying someone is insane? But what if they turned out to be true? To what degree is it important for a person advocating weird beliefs to say, “I know this sounds crazy, but…?”
~What is the very end scene with the children playing intending to say? What is this movie’s perspective on the Bible? Does this movie enhance Biblical faith or undermine it? Would you consider this a dangerous movie for new believers to watch?
~What do you think of John’s decision in the end of the movie? What about his choices in relationship to his father?
~What do you think of the end of this movie? Do you find it satisfying, dissatisfying, disturbing?
Overall Grade: C+ It’s fine. It’s creepy. That’s what a PG-15 C+ means.

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