Prophesy That

28/03/09 | Posted by MattPage

Film Review: Knowing
Of all the titles that Jesus was known by during his time on earth, "prophet" was perhaps more widely used than anything else. The crowds, the woman at the well, the Pharisees, the disciples and even Jesus himself all used the term. Yet it's one of the descriptions that we're perhaps least comfortable with today. It’s fine for Jesus to be a "good teacher" or even a messiah, but it's usually only the followers of Islam who will call him a prophet.

image
 Nicolas Cage in Knowing

Part of that derives from problems with the very idea of prophesying. We can accept that Jesus may have been able to foresee his own death, or know what his critics were thinking when they disapproved of his miracles. However, we’re less comfortable with passages such as Mark 13 where he either predicts the catastrophic fall of Jerusalem, or the end of world, or possibly even both. You only have to observe how few films about Jesus include this passage to gauge our concerns about the idea of anyone, even Jesus, predicting the future in such a manner.

Knowing

It’s this question that lies at the heart of Knowing - the new Nicolas Cage film. It’s certainly not afraid to wrestle with some of these issues as it builds towards a wonderfully tense final third. Cage plays John Koestler, a recently widowed Astrophysics professor whose grief seems to have sucked the enthusiasm out of his lecture on determinism. These days all he manages to conclude is that “shit just happens”.

But he’s forced to face this troubling question head on when his son, Caleb, brings home a mysterious piece of paper from class. Caleb’s school has just celebrated their 50th anniversary by unearthing a time capsule which had been buried by the class of ‘59 for that very purpose. The majority of Caleb’s predecessors drew pictures of what they thought the future would look like, but when the envelopes containing them are given out Caleb somehow ends up holding a piece of paper covered in numbers. By ‘chance’ Koestler realises that the numbers seem to predict 9/11 as well as many other major disasters both from the past and what seems to be the future.

Koestler’s no stranger to the prophet from Nazareth: his father is a pastor, though the two appear to have fallen out over religious matters. But such is the urgency and the seriousness of the prophecies he holds, he suddenly lacks the time to reflect on how what he is discovering might affect his beliefs.

Dark City

Director Alex Proyas is no stranger to such philosophical material. Ten years ago his science fiction thriller Dark City gave us a hero with supernatural powers who frees humanity and gives them new life and new hope. Sadly, this time around the film is much more uneven - a strange mix of impressive visuals, and dreadful, spooky-movie, clichés. For every finely crafted special effect there’s something crassly unoriginal hot on its heels. Yet perhaps the biggest cliché of all is Nicholas Cage’s overly familiar performance. If you thought that this was the film to see him leave behind his intense, sombre, caring but world-weary act, then you, at least, are clearly not a prophet.

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