Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DVD review: "Knowing"

"Knowing" starts out as an intense little supernatural thrill, and slowly builds upon itself until it becomes a global disaster flick with computer-generated visions of the end of the world.

Nicolas Cage plays an MIT scientist whose son recovers a piece of paper put in a time capsule 50 years ago that contains a list of numbers that seems to predict every major disaster that's happened since. With several more as yet unfulfilled prophecies set to occur, it's up to him to figure out the clues to keep people from dying.

Cage gives a nuanced performance as a guy trying to wrap his mind around increasingly bizarre circumstances, while struggling to maintain a relationship with his young son. For those who only know him from his "American Treasure" movies or other bubble-gum pap, "Knowing" is a good excuse to reconnect with an actor of prodigious skills.

Director Alex Proyas ("Dark City") is a master at awe-inspiring visuals and building mood, but his handling of the more mundane demands of unfolding a plot tend to drag the movie down. Whenever we reach a scene where the scientists have to explain what's going on, it makes us long to get back to the weird glowing lights and strange blonde guys in black overcoats who appear from time to time.

The extras that come with the disc are better than average. There's a 12-minute making-of documentary that doesn't shed much new light, and a 17-minute feature talking to experts about how mankind has interpreted the apocalypse throughout time. Both are notable for the lack of any participation by Cage.

Proyas supplies a commentary track, using an unidentified questioner who prompts him on various topics. This has the benefit of keeping the commentary rolling virtually non-stop -- many one-person tracks have gaps of several minutes or more. It's moderately interesting stuff, but certainly not crucial.

Movie: 2.5 stars
Extras: 3 stars

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