Who knew that you could make a movie asking metaphysical cosmology questions and suggesting a mechanical deterministic model of the universe? It probably wasn’t proposed that way at the high concept meetings that ultimately green lighted Knowing starring Nicholas Cage but that is what is delivered. Despite the rather involved concepts behind the story Knowing is ultimately a chase movie in which the pursuer is also being pursued in ways he does not understand.
While the premise of the movie is a complicated metaphysical question the actual execution is pretty straightforward and starts fifty years in the past with the opening of a new school and the burying of a time capsule. The capsule was the idea of Lucinda a dark and strange little girl who then contributes to the time capsule a piece of paper covered in numbers from the top left hand corner to the bottom right hand corner – all numbers in tiny script. Despite the unusual nature of her message to the future her letter is included with those of other students who were asked to portray the future as they thought it might be fifty years hence. Jump forward fifty years to the extraction of the time capsule and the distribution of the letters from the past to the students of today. Lucinda’s letter winds up in the hands of Caleb Koestler son of astrophysicist John Koestler of M.I.T.
What proceeds from this point is part science fiction and part theology and the central question of the movie is posited by John Koestler himself in a classroom environment: Is the universe determined or random. The idea behind this is that if it is determined then there is some reason or purpose but if it is random then it is without reason or purpose. An irony here of course is that if the universe is determined then all our actions may be with reason and purpose just not our own so ultimately it is without reason or purpose to us. Philosophical meanderings aside this is a movie which has an audience but it is not the audience at which the movie is targeted. Trailers and advertising campaigns targeted the action, adventure and science fiction communities when it should have been looking more to those with a philosophical and religious bent. Taken as a whole this is a decent enough movie but ultimately unsatisfactory action/adventure and SF fans. It is not a bad movie but just a little too preachy for its own good.