Knowing [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Icon Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan C. Stevenson & Noor Razzak (27th October 2009).
The Film

A good movie will often leave the viewer with unanswered questions. As it so happens, one of the most satisfying parts of the filmmaking process is to, occasionally, let the audience interpret a picture for themselves. Frankly, I appreciate films that are a little open-ended; I donít need everything to be spelled out to enjoy it myself, and I find it fun, interestingÖ fulfilling to ďfigure it outĒ on my own. One of the best experiences Iíve had at the movies was the abrupt appearance of the end titles in "No Country for Old Men" (2008).

I certainly had questions as the credits rolled on "Knowing". Does that mean that it was a ďgood movie?Ē No, not really. It just means I was a little confused. Some of my questions: well, how about, why does Nicholas Cage continue to get leading roles? This answer is easy: inexplicably, he is a box-office draw: this is true even with "Knowing". Some of its $175 million gross is undoubtedly because of nothing else other than his name appearing in the credits. Another question: why, honestly, did Roger Ebert, a critic that I greatly admire and, by-and-large, agree with on most things, calls this "One of the best sci-fi films" that heís ever seen and give it four stars (out of four)? Harder to answer, but not impossible: he obviously found something likable or interesting that I did not. Or maybe heís just gone bonkers. My most troubling question, however, is also the most difficult question to answer: what, exactly, did I just watch?

I mean, donít misunderstand me, I can explain the plot plainly enough: After finding a page full of numbers, decoding their message and realizing that said numerals predict every major disaster in the past 50 years, John Koestler (Nicholas Cage) tries to save humanity before the world ends. Simple enough, and, perhaps in its simplistic form, the film doesnít sound half bad. At no time did I not grasp the film; even the deep philosophical questions and the numerous referential (both in the biblical and scientific senses) scenes were easy enough to digest and analyze.

To be frank, "Knowing" is a bad movie: Iím just not entirely sure why itís a bad movie. Or, Iím not sure how it ended up being a bad movie. The filmís a bit of a conundrum to me honestly. On one level "Knowing" probably could have worked, with a different actor in the lead role: Cage is undoubtedly my least favorite aspect of the film, and a slight reworking of the script could have helped matters too. But, even with the talented Alex Proyas in the directorís chair, "Knowing" fails. It fails because someone who canít act plays our hero: or, more correctly, someone who could act once-upon-a-time but has lost the ability to do so, plays our hero Ė a hero who I honestly, at no point in the movie, care if he lives or dies.

As a science fiction film it doesnít really work (aside from Ė spoiler Ė having aliens show up in the final act); as a thriller it isnít particularly compelling; it has too few action scenes to be an out and out actioner. It succeeds on basically one level: as a disaster movie. You know, a genre comprised of the kind of end-of-the-world films that are directed by Roland Emmerich; in that regard this is "Citizen Kane" (1941). Compared to the crap that Emmerich has been putting out lately, "Knowing" is a godsend: if for no other reason than it actually asks questions and is not just an excuse for CG destruction. I give the film its due for actually going through with ďit.Ē Spoiler alert Ė having the balls to kill the two main characters is a breath of fresh air: instead of copping out like some films Ė ahem, "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004) Ė "Knowing" ends with a real game changer.

There is some debate as to the films ending. Are we talking about pre-determinism or not? Is it pro-creationist or is it pro-science? The answer, I think, is that itís both. But that question, that element of the script, is not in itself a reason to call this a good movie. Yes, the film asks questions. But that just means itís a better movie than most in a genre filled with (as of late) terribleness.

"Knowing" is partly competent, true, mostly in its visuals. There is a scene in the movie that I find particularly brilliant: as a plane falls out of the sky and crashes on the side of the highway (a shot now infamous because of its over-use in all the promotional trailers and TV spots for the film), the camera, in one take, pans with the wreckage back to Cage and continues handheld with him into the carnage. Explosions abound. It is chaos. There is no cutting: this is one continuous shot lasting over two minutes. A logistical nightmare I am sure, itís like the opening of "Lost" (2004-Present), only more gruesome and a little grander in scale. There are moments of likeability such as this in the film scattered throughout but on the whole, impressive visuals canít distract from the other issues occurring alongside them.

There are times when "Knowing" just logically doesnít compute Ė Iíd go into detail but the less spoilers, the better (this is my second time Iíve completely rewritten this review: take one was basically a continuous, gigantic spoiler and it didnít work at all. Take two still has too many spoilers but itís just too hard to talk about this film without them).

Video

The film is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression codec. The image is excellent, transferred from the film's original digital source, this production was shot using the 4K Red One camera technology. The resulting image is about as perfect and pristine as one can get. The sharpness is unparalleled and even minute detail stands out in perfect digital quality. One of the most impressive features of using this camera is that its fairly true to film and provides wonderful depth of field and limitless colours. The detail captured is also impressive, from large-scale wide shots that show off the film's size to close-up and intimate shots that reveal detail right down to the actor's faces. Colours are solid throughout, skin tones appear natural and black levels are deep and bold. To top it off the image is clean, crisp and simply gorgeous to look at. Warner Brothers and Icon have provided viewers with a top notch reference quality image that looks brilliant on any HD display.

Audio

Matching the excellent visuals are equally impressive audio tracks in either English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit or English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround also mixed at 48kHz/24-bit. I had a chance to view the film with both tracks and each are impressive in their own right, while the DTS-HD track edges the TrueHD only slightly with a deeper field. The dialogue was clear and distortion free, ambient sounds are subtle and add further depth to the mix, directional surrounds also appear natural and the special effects sounds are what makes this track sing. The robust nature of the effects provides an immersive and well balanced audio experience, with music adding that further layer to the overall sound space. The mix is best heard loud so crank this one up.
Optional subtitles are only included in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

Extras include an audio commentary, two featurettes and bonus trailers. Unfortunately, the featurettes are just EPK fluff, considerably diminishing their value. On the plus side, Warners/Icon have decided to present all video based material (including the trailers) in HD.

First up is an audio commentary with director Alex Proyas (and an un-named moderator, feeding questions) as he discusses "Knowing", his reasons behind making the film and what it all means. It's interesting enough to be sure.... and probably worth a listen for fans of the film or director.

"Knowing All: The Making of a Futuristic Thriller", a featurette running 12 minutes 35 seconds, is EPK fodder: it focuses entirely on the film itself: everyone fawns over Proyas and Cage; there is also some discussion of the CG and locations.

A second featurette (culled from the same Electronic Press Kit as the first piece) comes in the form of "Visions of the Apocalypse", clocking in at 17 minutes 14 seconds. It discusses ancient civilizations and their thoughts on the coming end Ė interesting, perhaps, everything didn't seem so forced.

Finally there is a bonus trailer for "Push" which runs for 1 minute 33 seconds.

Overall

The film and extras have been reviewed by Ethan C. Stevenson, the A/V specs have been reviewed by Noor Razzak.

The Film: D+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: D Overall: C+

 


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