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Knowing (2009)


The movie opens at an elementary school named William Dawes, in Lexington, Massachusetts, 1959. In the playground, we see Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) staring into the distance as if she is witnessing some catastrophic event. As she stares, whispering sounds are heard in the background. The teacher, Miss Taylor (Danielle Carter), repeatedly instructs Lucinda to come back into the class when the recess period ends. During the class session Miss Taylor tells the students that as part of the school's official Opening Day celebration, the students will draw what they think the future is going to look like, and place the results in a time capsule. She tells them this is Lucinda's idea (important later). As they start drawing, we see Lucinda in a trance, furiously scribbling seemingly random numbers onto a sheet. It appears that the mysterious whispering voices are controlling Lucinda's thoughts and actions. As she collects the students' work, Miss Taylor must grab the sheet from Lucinda due to her trance like state.During the ceremony, we see a crowd gathered as the time capsule is lowered into the school grounds. In the distance we can see Lucinda alone and staring at the proceedings. A few minutes later Miss Taylor notices Lucinda gone from her spot, and her balloon floating off. This sparks a search party for her. Alerted by noise coming from a door to a school storage closet, Miss Taylor finds Lucinda inside, her fingers bloodied as she's scratched even more numbers into the wooden door. She is still crying and acting as if in a trance, before she begs Miss Taylor to make the whispering stop.The movie then flashes forward to the present day 50 years later. We are introduced to M.I.T. professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) and his son Caleb at their house. John is cooking hot dogs for his son (who is holding a white pet rabbit). They talk about the possibility of intelligent life in outer space, and after dinner Caleb is in his bedroom watching his favourite show about tigers. As John tucks Caleb into bed, it's seen that Caleb thinks John's view on life life in outer space is tied to the tragic passing of Allison, John's wife and Caleb's mother. John kisses Caleb goodnight, and they go through a nightly ritual of using sign language for the phrase, 'You and me, together, forever;' Caleb is hearing impaired and uses a hearing aid (also important later). After Caleb is asleep, we see John drinking from a bottle of whiskey, and here we realize he is still coping with the devastating loss of his wife.The next day we see John giving a lecture to his class about determinism. Determinism is believing that everything that happens in the world is caused by something that happened before it, a deliberate cause and effect. The flip side is everything that happens in this world, even evolution, was all random, accidental, and without any order. When asked by a student what he believes in, John replies, s**t just happens. After the lecture, he is talking to his colleague Phil (Ben Mendelsohn) when he realizes he is missing Caleb's school's 50th year celebration where they are opening the same time capsule shown at the beginning of the movie.When he gets to the celebration he sees honoured guest Miss Taylor (now played by Alethea McGrath) giving a speech, and then the capsule is opened. Miss Taylor starts handing out the various pictures and drawings to the current students. As if by chance, Miss Taylor hands Lucinda's page of numbers to Caleb (all the other students get drawings of what the future would be like). As Caleb opens the letter and looks at it, he notices a strange looking man in the distance dressed in a trench coat, and starts to hear whispering voices in his head. This shows that there is some sort of tie between young Caleb and Lucinda as both can hear voices. Caleb takes the letter home.During dinner that evening, John notices the unusual letter with numbers sticking out of Caleb's backpack. After realizing it was from the time capsule, he admonishes him for taking it, as it is still school property, and sends him to sleep. A few moments later, when John goes to Caleb's room for his customary tuck in, he notices Caleb watching old home videos of Allison singing him to sleep. Instead of tucking him in, John closes the door and starts drinking heavily. As he pours himself drink after drink, he accidentally overfills his cup and spills alcohol everywhere. He goes to the kitchen to find something to wipe up the mess with when he notices that he placed his cup over Lucinda's list. The upper left part of the circular mark left by the wet cup's bottom highlights a section of numerals: 911012996. John takes a close look these numbers, which catch his attention. He walks over to his chalkboard and writes these numerals on it. After a few tries of separating them in different grouping combinations with no meaning, he suddenly finds the first five numbers are the date of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Looking the event up on the internet, he finds that the 2996 was the total number of victims. Startled, he writes the entire page of numbers onto the board, and with the help of the Internet, he finds the number groupings seem to predict the dates of every major catastrophic event of the past 50 years, in the chronological order in which they happen, along with the body counts, including the bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, the Oklahoma City bombing, and Hurricane Katrina. There are a few groups of numbers left that are not circled and accounted for, meaning that these numbers may predict future events. Suddenly John's gaze falls on the number sequence 102708 and drops his drink in horror. It becomes clear that 10/27/08 is the date of Allison's death.He tells his colleague Phil about the numbers and is met with ridicule, and John storms out of the office. Determined, John tracks down Miss Taylor and speaks to her at her home. He finds out about Lucinda, and how she disappeared, and how they found her in the closet when she scratched numbers onto the door (again, important later). Unfortunately, Miss Taylor tells him that Lucinda died a while ago. John hopes to get Miss Taylor to help corroborate his theory but it quickly becomes obvious that Miss Taylor, in her old age, has begun experiencing short-term memory loss that would make her word unreliable.Later that afternoon we see Caleb playing soccer by himself in the front lawn. John is on the phone trying to hunt down more leads, when a black car filled with several of the mysterious looking strangers approaches Caleb. As the car approaches, Caleb starts to hear whispering sounds and thinks his hearing aid is malfunctioning. One of the men reaches out of the car window and hands Caleb a smooth black stone. John sees this and rushes outside but the men leave.At his house, while looking up Lucinda's passing on the internet (her name is now shown as Lucinda Embry-Wayland, meaning she'd married), John is suddenly startled by his sister Grace (Nadia Townsend), who is worried about how he is still coping with his wife's death and how he doesn't talk to their father, who is a pastor. She offers to babysit Caleb so he can resume a social life. After a tense exchange of words, John asks her to leave.That evening and throughout the night, John stays awake searching the latest television news updates for any possible catastrophic event that could be a part of the remaining groups of numbers, as the next day is one of the last three dates listed. One news update briefly lists disruption of cell phone satellite networks due to solar flares (important).The next day John oversleeps and forgets to pick up his son from school. He calls Caleb and tells him he is on his way. On his way to pick up his son, John finds himself stuck on a highway in heavy rain, due to an accident. He phones Phil to apologize for their meeting earlier. He then uses his truck's GPS system to try and find an alternate route, but it shows that there are none. All of a sudden he notices the present latitude/longitude coordinates on the GPS system, and looks at Lucinda's letter and notices the same group of numbers immediately following the sequence that list the day's date. All the uncircled groups of numbers, as he now realizes, are the latitude and longitude coordinate locations of the disasters! He gets out of his truck and approaches the accident site. As he is talking to the police, an airplane comes careening out of the sky and crashes directly into the path of his truck before continuing on to the fields next to the highway, where it explodes. We next see a powerful and disturbing sequence of the aftermath of the crash. John does what he can to help the survivors, many of who are burning and in terrible pain, as explosions are still going off, before rescue workers hold him back.When he gets home his sister is waiting for him with Caleb. He asks Grace not to tell Caleb what happened. In the background, a TV news report lists the death toll from the plane crash at 81 people, and we can hear a reference to navigational malfunctions due to electromagnetic radiation (important). Caleb repeatedly asks him what happened but John will not answer and Caleb storms off crying. Later that night Phil comes to see John. Shown that the uncircled dates are lat/long coordinates and knowing that John was at the site of the plane crash has severely rattled Phil. John is certain that the numbers are a warning for him, but Phil wonders if they're warnings to stay away, despite John being heavily occupied with two major disasters remaining in the number sequence.Still later that night, Caleb is awakened in his room by one of the strangers, who points to the window. As Caleb goes to the window he is greeted by a horrifying sight, a terrible forest fire and hundreds of animals being burned alive. As he screams, John rushes up to his room to comfort him, and then he notices the stranger again outside the house standing by the trees. He attempts to confront him, but the man is gone by the time John gets outside.The next day John and Caleb track down Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby (also played by Lara Robinson). Diana is Lucinda's daughter. They are at a museum when John uses Caleb as a ploy to start a discussion with Diana. He invites her and Abby for drinks and they walk to the restaurant. There John reveals the truth that in fact it wasn't a random meeting, but that he tracked her down due to her mother and the page of numbers. He tells her the truth about the numbers, and wants her help. Angered by this deception, Diana storms off with Abby; paying only minimal attention as he tries to tell her that he was at the plane crash the previous day, and that tomorrow, 170 more people will die in New York City, and then 33 more on October 19th (important again). John pleads that he wants to save his son, thinking caleb is in danger, but Diana says she can't help.Later on, John is at home when his attention is grabbed by a television news alert of a possible terrorist attack in New York (the camera pans outside his house to show several of the strange men standing outside). Checking the number groupings in Lucinda's letter, he finds that the coordinates show the corner of Lafayette and Worth streets in Manhattan. With a sense of urgency he anonymously calls from a pay phone and tells the FBI to block off the area.The next day he has Grace babysit Caleb, and drives himself to New York on a personal mission to try to do what he can about the potential terrorist threat. When he gets to the corner of Lafayette and Worth, he notices it is not blocked off by the police. He angrily confronts a police officer, and then runs off to a nearby subway station to avoid being detained by the police, who begin pursuing him. Believing this is the area where an attack may occur, he starts scanning the area for any suspicious activity. As he walks down the platform he notices a suspicious looking man holding a large object underneath his jacket. As their eyes meet, the man suddenly sprints off, and John goes after him, believing him to be the threat, and a nearby police officer notices them. They both get on the train right before it takes off, followed by the police.As they both near the front of the train, John starts warning people, particularly a young pregnant woman, to clear the train at the next stop. The police then catch up to them and try to arrest John. After John pleads his case that the man he was chasing is the threat, the police then switch their attention to the man. Frightened, the man drops what he was hiding: a bunch of DVDs he has stolen.We next see the tracks being improperly switched due to electrical malfunction, and this causes the train to veer onto the wrong tracks and straight into the path of a parked train at full speed. The train goes off the tracks and creates a path of death and destruction as it careens out of control through the crowded platform. After the crash we see John solemnly walking out of the station along with other survivors, covered in dust. Even though he was not able to prevent the disaster from happening, this event to John is the final proof that the numbers are meant to predict past and future disasters. It also seems to indicate that for some reason he is the chosen one that discovered this. On the news reports later, an anchorman says that the track malfunction is believed to be related to the same electrostatic bursts that caused the Lexington plane crash (again, important). John gets home and tells Grace he got held up by work, but he will be by to pick Caleb up in 30 minutes.When John gets back home, he finds Diana and Abby sitting outside his house. Diana is now sympathetic to him. She remembers what John told her about the date of October 19th (the date listed in the last grouping of numbers); Lucinda used to talk about that date often, saying it was the day that Diana would die. The four of them all drive to Lucinda's old trailer out in the middle of the woods to find more clues. As they drive, Diana reads the numerical list