Film / Knowing
Are there things man is not meant to know?

"The numbers are the key to everything."
Dr. John Koestler

Knowing is a 2009 Science Fiction / Disaster Movie starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Alex Proyas.

The film begins in 1959 with a girl named Lucinda Embry who is shown repeating seemingly random numbers. At the elementary school where she goes, her class makes a time capsule filled with various drawings and letters to the people of the future. Lucinda's contribution, however, is a piece of paper that simply has numbers written on it.

Fifty years later, the elementary school class of Dr. John Koestler's son, Caleb, opens up the capsule. Caleb finds Lucinda's piece of paper, taking it home with him, puzzled by the numbers. John begins obsessing over it, soon discovering the numbers are not random, but, rather, are the exact dates and death tolls of every major disaster in the past fifty years. These prove to be accurate for everything from hotel fires to 9/11. However, not all of these are for past events as there are a handful of predictions that haven't happened yet.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alien Sky: The next world has two huge planets hanging overhead.
  • Angelic Aliens: The aliens seem to combine this with Energy Beings. They have wings and are glowing and kind of see-through.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Diana drives a stolen car through a red light to be able to catch up to the "kidnappers" of the children, gets hit by a truck, and dies.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played straight, especially when it's mostly kids who hear the call of the angel/alien things to leave earth.
  • Cosmic Horror Story
  • Creepy Child: Lucinda.
  • Ending Tropes:
    • Apocalypse How: A Total Planetary Extinction. Scientists were predicting the flare to wipe out all life through radiation, but it simply burns Earth into a rocky, airless wasteland
    • Apocalypse Wow: The shot of New York being enveloped by a wall of fire easily gives the similar scene in Independence Day a run for its money.
    • Downer Ending: Borderline.
    • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Closer to Earth Boiling Ka-boom, but hey. It's pretty much the same result - Earth ends up a burned out, lifeless husk with no atmosphere.
    • Gainax Ending: To say the ending is confusing is a vast understatement.
    • Kill 'em All: Almost.
      • "ƎƎ. Everyone else."
    • Twist Ending: Adam and Eve Plot: Judging by the multiple ships we see, it seems like several couples of Adams and Eves in fact.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Energy Beings: It's never made clear if they were aliens or angels (given their ability to predict the future with great precision).
  • Evil Albino: The aliens disguise themselves as a group of albino men in raincoats.
    • Subverted with the cute albino bunnies that do not turn into Killer Rabbits.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Cage and his family chose to spend their last moments in meaningful, loving embrace rather than futile panic.
  • Flatline: For Diane, apparently caused by the Magical Defibrillator.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Through the whole film, the angels/aliens appear as humans. At the end of the film, they reveal their true form. Played with a bit, as they're not very successful at the "comfortable" part.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: One could make a case that this is what's wrong with Lucinda. She could well have been a perfectly normal child before she met the "Whisper People".
  • Identical Granddaughter: Lucinda and Abby.
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: All but literally.
  • Lecture as Exposition: This is probably the reason Cage's character is a college professor.
  • Look Both Ways: Diana overlooking the truck.
  • Magical Defibrillator: A weird version of this. The EKG is clearly showing v-fib (i.e. the thing you actually want to defibrillate) and the EMT administers defib, which correctly stops the heart. This, however, surprises the EMT somewhat, causing them to call the time of death without even attempting CPR.
  • McGuffin: The black stones that apparently came from the place where the ship was stationed.
  • Meaningful Name: Lucinda Embry bears remarkable similarity to the words 'lucid ember', another early allusion to the Earth burning to a crisp.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers made the movie sound like a story about a man trying to find out whether the future was fixed or if he could save people from the predicted disasters. Instead we got a lot of running around just to meet an alien Noah.
  • No Antagonist: Even the Evil Albinos turn out to be benevolent angels/aliens.
  • Oh, Crap!: As John and Diana would discover, EE means Everyone Else.
  • The Oner: The entire airplane crash sequence is shot in one take.
  • Our Angels/Aliens/(Whatever They Are) Are Different: it's not clear whether the "whisperer people" are angels, aliens or both. They have spaceships like aliens, and in one scene the wispy light around their bodies looks like wings, like angels. (Also the movie hints the final event is the second coming of Christ.) Whatever they are, they act creepy, mysterious, and threatening. They speak in whispers as their child given name implies, shoot light out of their mouths and tell of future events.
  • Red Herring: Played straight every time Nicolas Cage wants to stop a disaster from happening.
    • It appears John's car was destroyed in the plane crash but later he is shown driving the same car.
    • While stuck in traffic, Nicolas Cage works out that he's on the exact co-ordinates of the next disaster. He gets out of his car and walks to where the hold-up is; a stalled LPG tanker. Just when you're wondering how he's ever going to survive when the tanker explodes, a passenger airliner falls out of the sky behind him.
    • Also, as detailed above, the design of the Whisper People is deliberately sinister. Their similarity in appearance to The Strangers from Dark City (also directed by Alex Proyas) cannot possibly be a coincidence.
    • The numbers say that people will die in New York and the movie mentions how people in New York are scared about a possible terrorist attack. Cage goes to the place where the attack will take place and sees a weird looking guy and chases him thinking he is a terrorist. Turn out the guy was stealing disks and then the train immediately malfunctions and kills people like the numbers predicted.
  • Revolvers Are For Amateurs: Nicholas Cage's character decides he needs a gun, and appears very inexperienced, to the point of methodically reading the manual, and then proceeding to run around with his finger on the trigger, in direct violation of the many, many safety warnings in the manual.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The only reason there's a plot at all is that the aliens/angels/whatever the hell they are were unable or unwilling to just tell everyone what was going to happen in plain English. Hell, even plain Latin or plain Ancient Egyptian would have been a sight more helpful than what the protagonist had to work with. Makes one wonder about their motives, really...
  • Room Full of Crazy: Lucinda's whole house, but particularly what John finds when he lifts up the bed.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Practically the whole damned movie, but that woodblock print marked Ezekiel I isn't just for show. Also, the ending turns this into an Adam and Eve Plot.
  • Scare Chord: As if the whole soundtrack wasn't creepy. See Soundtrack Dissonance below.
  • Science Hero: Dr. John Koestler
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog/You Cannot Fight Fate: One of the biggest criticisms against the movie was that all of Nicolas Cage's actions amount to zilch in the end. For all the good knowing the future did, he could have banged the hot leading lady and smoked a cigarette as the aliens took the kids and the world fried.
    John: I thought there was some purpose to all this. Why did I get this prediction if there's nothing I can do about it? How am I supposed to stop the end of the world?
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This movie flips between the ideas of complete randomness and everything happening for a reason all too much (albeit confusing determinism with intelligent design).
  • Solar Flare Disaster: How the world is destroyed in the end.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Beethoven's 7th during the End of the World as We Know It? Hideki Anno would be impressed.
  • Throat Light: The luminescent aliens.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The film was released in March of 2009 and takes place in October of that same year.
  • World Tree: The tree in the closing scene.
  • Zeerust: The 1959 children's drawings of the year 2009.