Picofarad #17 movie review

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Knowing (2009)

Directed by Alex Proyas
Running Time: 121 minutes

Knowing is already infamous for the number of bad early reviews it got. So to attack that straight away: The primary complaints expressed in these reviews are that (a) it stars Nicholas Cage and (b) it debases itself with vile genre elements such as prophecy and nonhuman intelligences. I can't help you if (a) is a problem, but I can assure you that (b) is used entirely to its advantage.

First, the hero: The establishing shot of Dr. John Koestler (Cage) gives you his two primary traits-- he's an astronomer and an alcoholic. Both turn out to be essential skills for cracking the mystery presented when his son comes home with a mysterious paper covered with numbers. In what has to be the best movie depiction in ages of how accidental scientific discovery really works, staying up with some late-night booze, our intrepid professor puts his whiskey glass down for a moment, then notices that the water stain has circled a sequence that seems to be about a well-known disaster a few years ago...

After that is a little room for debate about predestination, free will, and the tendency of humans to see patterns in randomness, but the last calamities predicted by the numbers won't wait, and Koestler's focus rapidly changes from satisfying his curiosity to staying alive.

Speaking of vile genre elements, let's not fail to mention sense of wonder. There's some of the traditional sort later on, but for a large part of the movie, the awe comes from watching situations develop which, this being a Hollywood production, will inevitably be averted with some ridiculous last-minute twist, and then watching it not chicken out.

And the screenwriters have been absolutely brutal about it. Knowing is rated PG-13 for "disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language." It should be rated R for "will give your kids PTSD". There are three graphic disasters and one intense nightmare sequence. No matter how emotionally mature your 10-year-old is, they do not belong in the room when this movie is on.

This is a movie that you will probably not want to see twice, but you should see it once.

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