PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language.
Science Fiction/Fantasy and Thriller
March 20, 2009
Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, Ben Mendelsohn
Summit Entertainment, LLC, Sony Pictures Releasing
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Knowing: Peddling Visions of Doom
By Dr. Corné Bekker
- Hollywood A-lister Nicholas Cage stars as John Koestler, an astrophysicist and MIT professor, whose son receives an envelope from a time capsule buried fifty years prior at his school. Inside is a letter by a former student from the 1950s with a long list of number sequences recorded, numbers that she heard whispered in her head by mysterious figures they refer to as “the whisperers”. Koestler recognizes key disaster events in the list of numbers with further events predicted that will culminate in a final event of global destruction. He tries to stop these events from occurring, only to realize that he and all others are powerless to intervene in this countdown to mankind’s demise.
Cage gives a controlled performance reminiscent of his earlier work that garnered him an Oscar, but his best efforts are overshadowed by the somber note and impressive special effects of the film. Alex Proyas’ solid direction of the film is evident in the cinematography; the realistic and gritty look in which it was produced helped the movie.
Knowing’s dark visions of doom employ many Biblical themes and imagery: Ezekiel’s chariot vision of a wheel-in-a-wheel (Ezekiel 1), the four living creatures that surround the vision, the light of Divine glory, the gift of prophecy, the eschatological vision of a new Earth, the tree of life and the saints dressed in white robes. But this is no “unveiling of hope” (the literal meaning of apocalypse) as in John’s Revelation or in the words of Jesus about the end of time. The imagery is dark and disturbing, bordering on the aesthetic look of a horror movie. The message is one of fear, hopelessness, and the futile acceptance of the coming destruction of all life on Earth.
Most telling is the absence of God or any real mention of the Divine. There is no explanation offered of why these events are occurring and no hope of any salvation (physical or spiritual), except for a few children that have been chosen by “the whisperers” to “start it all over again.” Koestler’s talk about an afterlife is presented as a lullaby speech to pacify a frightened child. The only time God is referenced is in a copy of a 17th century drawing by Matthaeus Merrian of Ezekiel’s vision and then God is identified as the sun whose indeterminate solar flare will destroy Earth and all of life on it.
Knowing presents an alternative vision of the end of our world; a vision devoid of God, purpose, and eternal significance. What is most annoying is the constant use of Biblical themes and imagery to peddle its ideology of futility. Maybe this highlights once again the desperate need for Christians to know and communicate the Biblical message of hope and salvation contained in our own sacred texts in ways that will engage our sensory-driven world.
The film’s PG-13 rating is far too low. The images of violent death are extreme and the messages of futility and family abandonment may be disturbing even to teenagers. Viewers are strongly cautioned.
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Dr. Corné Bekker is an associate professor in the Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. He previously served as the Assistant-Dean of Rhema Bible College in Johannesburg , South Africa. Dr. Bekker in an ordained minister and has traveled in Africa, Europe, the East and North America to present at churches, ministries, seminars and academic conferences on the subject of Christian spirituality and leadership formation.
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