Harrowing, Underappreciated Sci-Fi from Alex Proyas and Nicolas Cage — KNOWING (2009) Hits 4K UHD

Please note the image captures in the article are sourced from the Blu-ray, not the 4K disc.

Every now and then you go into a film with no particular expectations and are completely blown away. Such was the case for me when I casually watched Knowing, a film that flew under my radar — perhaps due to its mononymous title that subconsciously disappears into other movies like Unknown and Next — and only captured my interest because I caught wind that Alex Proyas (Dark City, The Crow) was the director.

In 1959, a girl scribbles a page full of numbers and drops it into a time capsule. Fifty years later, astrophysics professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) and his son Caleb become the recipients of that artifact. John takes an interest in the numerical patterns and attempts to crack a code — and makes a shocking discovery. The numbers accurately demonstrate a precise pattern that prophesy impending disasters – with the worst yet to come.

The film’s opening preface has a sort of spooky supernatural element to it which feels like it could go in either direction — a forgettable studio horror foray or something better. But by the time the main story kicks in and grabs ahold of the viewer, it becomes a riveting and volatile exploration of existential questioning that veers into hard science fiction, ever expanding into a wider stage and progressively bigger ideas.

Knowing feels very close to the best work of M. Night Shyamalan before his decline (with emphasis on Signs). Cage’s character, the son of a minister, is a mathematician and atheist who ceased to believe in any form of God or higher order to the Universe when his wife died — everything is birthed from random chaos and chance. It’s the introduction of this inexplicable prophecy that forces him to reexamine his stance — to take action and try to avert future disaster is a betrayal of his most ardently held beliefs.

I’m intentionally being vague about major sections of the plot because going into this movie blind was one of the most distinct pleasures about it. I had no idea what this unspooling scroll of a movie would reveal, and as a result it truly shook me.

One of the film’s most incredible aspects is that, despite its PG-13 rating, it has some of the most harrowing film violence I’ve ever seen — not in terms of guts and gore, but rather in its impact — a sickening sensation of tragedy and loss of life, specifically in a pair of huge, unforgettable HOLY SHIT sequences that absolutely floored me. Unlike the city-leveling destruction of your typical disaster fare of the Roland/Emmerich, comic book, and kaiju sort — which are essentially cartoons, Knowing’s visions of disaster are intimately drawn and deeply affecting. I’m going to leave it at that and just say emphatically that this is a powerful, must-watch film that I adore.

The Package

Knowing arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray in a combo pack which also includes the existing disc Blu-ray and a digital HD code. My copy also came with a metallic slipcover.

The movie was shot digitally and has a particularly crisp, clean look to it which is complemented by the high resolution picture. According to realorfake4k.com, this is a 2K up-rez, but it looks outstanding — particularly in terms of lighting and color representation and an absence of artifacts or banding in low-light sequences (of which there are many).

Special Features and Extras

Kudos to Lionsgate for including the special features on the 4K disc, as the trend among 4K discs is “movie-only”.

5 Things Worth Knowing About Knowing (2:01)
New — A quickie Youtube style fluff video highlighting a few bits of trivia about the movie. A new exclusive to the 4K disc.

Audio Commentary with Alex Proyas

Knowing All: The Making of a Futuristic Thriller (12:36)
Making-Of featuring cast and crew, with interviews and BTS footage, particularly surrounding the incredible plane crash setpiece.

Visions of the Apocalypse (17:15)
Academics discuss apocalyptic themes in religion, history, and fiction, tying into aspects of the film.

The Blu-ray disc includes trailers for Astro Boy (:49), The Brothers Bloom (2:22), and Push (2:33)

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon: Knowing — 4K UHD

All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc, not the 4K, and may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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