Knowing

I’m inspired. I want to swear a lot. In a positive way. But I won’t. At least not at the moment. I’ve literally just got back from the cinema after watching Alex Proyas’ latest film, Knowing. All I can say is… Wow.

I’ve been looking forward to watching this film for a long time. There are many reason for this. Firstly, I loved I Robot. The special effects were great – plus it was just a really fantastic film in general. Great score, great script, great acting… great, well everything. Well apart from the mass amounts of product placement – but we’ll let that slip. Secondly, Alex is an Australian. Like most Aussie’s, I like to support our own. Thirdly, most of the film was shot in Melbourne – my home town. And last, but not least – this film was shot on the RED camera. Having work with the RED on the Sakooz trailer, I have a very fond spot in my heart for this unique piece of revolutionary technology. I always planned to see Knowing when it first opened at the cinemas (last Thursday), but I’ve been caught up with heaps of other things. But, tonight, I’ve finally seen it. And I’ll tell you what – the fact that I’m blogging about it late at night just goes to show how much this movie has affected me. As I said… Wow.

For those that have been living under a rock – here’s the basic synopsis: John Koestler’s son gets the most chilling drawing from a time capsule. It contains numbers that predict deadly events that have occurred and that will occur.

Seems simple enough.

I watched this film in a VMAX (i.e. big screen at Village Cinemas) theatre at a big local shopping complex. I caught the 9:30pm session on a Sunday night – so I knew that it wasn’t going to be that crowded. There were about 30 people in the audience – so there were literally hundreds of seats free. Well before the end of the movie at least five people left and never returned. Throughout the movie people awkwardly laughed in various sections to each other saying “what were they thinking”. At the end of the film, one guy in the back row yelled out, “that was the crappiest movie I’ve ever seen”. Several people laughed, and started talking to themselves agreeing. I haven’t been to a movie that caused so many extreme emotions for quite some time – especially in the mainstream cinema. Personally, I think if you can make a film that stirs this many people up – and not simply for the sake of just stirring people up (i.e. there wasn’t extreme violence for the sake of extreme violence, or sex scenes for the sake of sex scenes – everything certainly seemed there to serve a purpose) – is doing it’s job. I don’t think anyone could have walked out of this film feeling as if they weren’t being glued to the screen. Yes, some people walked out – but I think that was more to do with the fact that it was late on a Sunday night, and that they simply didn’t appreciate how magic this film really was.

I loved the script. I’ve seen the trailer for the film lots of times before tonight. I’d seen and read a couple of reviews on the film. Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton from At The Movies, seemed to really like it – and generally speaking I trust at least one of their opinions at any given time. So,  I thought I knew what I was in for. I was completely wrong. This is not the kind of film were you can work out exactly what’s going to happen just by looking at the poster.

I loved the acting. I know I’m in the minority – but generally speaking, I think that Nicolas Cage generally always does a good job. Sure he’s done some bad films – but just look at Lord of War, Adaptation, Con Air, Leaving Las Vegas, Next and all the other great films he’s done. In this film, I think he was superb. I think he completely got into the character, and within seconds I completely forgot he was Nicholas Cage. The kids, Chandler Canterbury and Lara Robinson were amazing. Throughout the film I kept on wondering what the hell I’d seen Lara in before. Funnily enough, I’ve been cutting together someone’s show reel together the last couple of days, and she features in one of the films I’ve been getting footage from. That’s right – she’s an Aussie. A Melbourne girl. And an incredible little actress.

The other face that took me a while to place was the beautiful Nadia Townsend. She only plays a minor role in this film – sister to Nicolas Cage – but despite her small amount of screen time she really stands out. I used to watch her bright and early every Saturday morning on the ABC kids show, Head Start. That’s right – she’s another Aussie. Another exceptional young actress.

The female co-star in the film, Diana Wayland, played by the stunning Rose Byrne is also… yes, you guessed it. An Aussie – born in Sydney. I thought the chemistry between Nicolas and Rose was great – and she certainly has a lot of screen presence.

The best thing is, that as I was watching the film, I didn’t once notice that all these people were Aussie’s. It only dawned on me as the titles started rolling. I think this is important. I know most people already know this (especially after Heath won so many awards after his breathing performance in The Dark Knight) – but it just goes to show how much acting talent we have “down under”.

I loved the visual effects. From what I can gather from the end titles – most of the companies involved were Australian – I believe the principle VFX house was Animal Logic. Some of the sequences were absolutely amazing. The only shot I didn’t fully believe was the plane crash landing – just because I thought that the plane itself looked a bit “computery” – but apart from that, I felt that everything else seemed to fit in perfectly. I think if they’d had a Qantas plane crashing, that may have sold it for me, but anyway! Everything was realistic, and in a lot of cases, faultless. To be honest, I was impressed. I was a bit sceptical coming in to the film – because the plane shot featured in all the trailers and promotional videos, and a couple of the other shots looked a bit flimsy on face value – but watching it all in context, I think everything worked, and it worked really well.

I loved the look of the film. RED has done it. This film looked just as good as any other blockbuster film I’ve seen in the cinemas this year. Not once did I think, “wait a second, this is digital”. The image quality was exceptional. And that’s watching it in a shopping centre complex movie theatre, on a print that probably been played way too many times before it came before my eyes! For those that have been doubting RED, or complaining that it’s not “good enough” to compete with film – here’s your proof. The film looks incredible. Enough said.

I loved the fact that this was shot in Melbourne. It’s incredible to see locations that I’ve been to many times before, but are shown in a completely new and unexpected light. Now I know what people in The States must feel like whenever a big blockbuster is released. I think that fact that they made Melbourne look like America is incredible. Sure there were a lot of things that looked very familiar (even little things like that fact that they used “our” exit signs, “our road signs” in long shots, etc.) – but generally speaking, it certainly didn’t feel like the film took place in Australia. It felt American. It felt Hollywood. It felt blockbuster. But not in a tacky negative way. This film was good. Really good. ET and 3rd Encounters good. Hint. Hint.

From the moment this film started, to the very last title (how strange is it seeing the RED logo next to Fuji), I was engaged. I was scared shit-less in sections. I was glued to the screen. I felt the music section and score was incredible. Marco BeltramiI, was the man in front of the orchestra, who also did the original compositions for I, Robot. Michael McMenomy – an Aussie – did the sound design. From what I can gather, this is the first time he’s taken on the role of Sound Designer for a feature film – although he’s worked in the sound department for many successful Australian and Hollywood films in the past. I loved the whispering. In surround, in an VMAX theatre – well, it just sent chills down my spine. It moved me. Physically.

Simon Duggan was the DOP – a New Zealander – and another ring-in from I, Robot. It’s great to see that Alex brought together such a tried and tested talented team. The film just looked great. Forget RED for a second. The framing and camera moves were perfect. It’s not about the technically – it’s about visually telling the story. Simon certainly does that!

Richard Learoyd was the editor – yet again another I, Robot survivor! I knew this is probably getting old – but I thought the editing was exceptional as well. Why you may ask? Because, just as the sound did, the editing kept me on the edge of my seat. When I was expecting one thing, I was presented with something completely different. I was shocked. I was surprised. I was… most importantly… entertained.

Ok… so you get the idea that I loved the film. I loved the editing, the sound design, the cinematography, the script… I honestly thought it was a really great film.

But why has it go me so inspired and worked up? Because not only did it caught such massive reactions in the audience, despite the fact that it was a small audience. Not only is it a really great film. But it was shot in Melbourne. On a RED camera. With an Australian director. And it looked epic. It looked big. It looked as good as any other blockbuster film I’ve seen this year. Just, if not more, impressive as Watchmen. This is what excites me. It just gives me hope that one that I’ll be able to make a film like this. Massive, visually stunning films are not just restricted to America (although that said, I already knew this – I mean, just look at some of the crazy VFX driven films coming out of places like Korea and Russia!). It gives me hope. It inspires me.

I’ve always wanted to do what Peter Jackson has done in New Zealand, and set up a PROPER high end film making community in Melbourne. When you watch films like this, it just makes me think that it’s all possible. We have the talent. We have the technology. There are certainly people out there that have great stories to tell. It’s really only a matter of time.

How can we make this happen? We need to ensure that people watch Australian films. People need to watch films like Knowing so that they can help learn to appreciate the fact that we can make big blockbusters down under. As film-makers, we really need to support our “mates” just like Alex is doing. We need to keep making Aussie films (even if they’re not set down under) so that actors like Nadia can keep growing and improving their art – because she’s one talented girl that I’m sure will go far.

So, to be honest, I don’t care if you’ve already seen this film, and think I’m on drugs, because you hated it. At least you’ve seen it. This is important. But personally, I think this is a great film. Yes the ending is a bit “out there” – but luckily, no one spoiled it for me, so as I watched it tonight (or last night technically as it’s well past midnight), everything was new and exciting. I love a movie that really moves me. I love a more that inspires me. I love a movie that makes me want to make movies. I love a movie that makes me want to talk about movies. This movie does all these things.

If you haven’t seen it – go watch it. It’s an experience. If you’ve already seen it, then leave a comment and tell me what you thought! Am I crazy? Critics seem to be on both sides of the fence.

Thanks for reading! And sorry for getting a little carried away… But, hey! Movie making is exciting!

Best Regards, Chris!

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