Tuesday, March 9, 2010


"Knowing" (Alex Proyas, 2009) The director's last film was the "in-name-only" bastardization of Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot," with its rule-breaking chrome figure-models that couldn't take apart a car convincingly. The movie benefited from Proyas' dark imagery and sense of imagination, but in the end it was another sci-fi film that finished with a fist-fight among the art direction. How....uh, "retro." The best thing about it was it gives somebody another chance to do Asimov right.

One walks in to "
Knowing," with the same kind of dread—another apocalypse movie, oh joy—only to come away impressed. More than that, you come away thinking thoughts that maybe Proyas knows science fiction better than most film-makers today, because "Knowing" does what really good science fiction does—show us an aspect of "now" that we don't consider and "us" that we finally recognize.

Forget the details, it's all hooey.
They're just levels of Hell in Proyas' "Inferno," a means for John Koestler, college professor (Nicolas Cage) to drop the "Doubting Thomas" act, and "find religion." He's a man of science, after all, and doesn't believe in pre-determination...unless, of course, he unlocks, scientifically, the battle plan himself. Then, he believes, Lawd A'mighty.

But, once he reaches his cross-roads (and Proyas points it out with all the subtlety of a pick-up truck) that's when the certainty arrives and the movie reveals itself to be something different: a metaphor for Death.

And that's where the title comes in:
we go through out lives sure of our mortality, and aware of the clock ticking in our chest, but we ignore it—we don't face it. It's pencilled into the Day-Planner like that trip to France, but we never firm it up, we just delay it a day at a time. Some day, not today. Manana. There's no "drop-dead" deadline.

Until there is. And then, you have to face it and walk the Kubler-Ross steps, knowing (knowing) time's a-wastin.' And the priorities and everyday details knock over like those endless arrangements of dominoes, revealing what needs to be done right here, right now. You can rant, you can rave, you can find God (Hint: He's always the last place you look), you can put your affairs in order, have your last meal and cigarette and say your good-byes at the door. That's just all delaying the inevitable.

But the first thing is, it's all out of your hands.

This isn't about "you."
It's about what "you" leave.

And that's what knowing (and "knowledge" is what the word "science" means) and "Knowing" is all about.

There's a reason Roger Ebert was the one critic in the country who didn't just dismiss this movie. He's been to the cross-roads. He's on the other side, waving and smiling at us.

And laughing.

That's the thing about smarter people. They're so "elitist."

1 comment:

Mike Lippert said...

I love this movie too! I thought it was one of the best of 2009. I wrote an editorial once about how critics and audiences aren't really willing to read between the lines anymore and don't appreciate films that are told through images because they don't play right into their hands. This film really makes you think. It is constantly presenting contradictory images of both religion and science and putting them next to one another. That's the brilliance of the film: it raises questions that it knows it can't possibly answer because they can't possibly have answers. Even the ending that many people wrote off follows this logic right through. We are seeing what we think are aliens but as they float out we clearly see the faint outline of wings and then the final imagine appear biblical until you see the spaceships blasting off in the background. A great, great movie. Glad to see you like it too.