Starring: Nicholas Cage, Rose Byrne and Chandler Canterbury
Director: Alex Proyas
THIS is an action thriller that deals with the supernatural, and it represents a special kind of genre that has many followers.
A code of numbers, written some 50 years ago, is buried in a time capsule at an elementary school in Massachusetts, USA.
The capsule is recovered 50 years later and the coded numbers find their way to Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), who attends the school, and is the son of Professor John Koestler (Nicholas Cage), recently widowed.
Caleb’s father works increasingly in earnest on the cryptic message to try to decipher what it says. The message seems just to give random numbers, but there is a pattern to them.
He is alarmed to find that the numbers have predicted major disasters for the past 50 years, and they are predicting cataclysmic events for the future.
The messages in them also hint at the destruction of the world, which John assumes will mean the death of Caleb and himself.
The authorities won’t listen and Diana Whelhan (Rose Byrne), the daughter of the disturbed “knowing” child, who wrote the random numbers 50 years before, first rebuffs him and then offers him help.
John is convinced of the accuracy of the predictions, because one of them foretold the death of his wife one year before, and tragedies keep occurring around him that the numbers predict.
He comes to believe that his son now has some role in the events that are about to happen, and he can’t deal with the future until he cracks all of the code, which was buried unfinished.
The movie itself was filmed in Melbourne, and uses global locations to highlight settings around the world. In it, we see several glimpses of Victorian scenes.
Alex Proyas, who has a history of delving into the supernatural, and who gave us Dark City and I, Robot, tackles the film with energy and vigour.
The movie abounds with disaster images that are typical of apocalyptic movies that trade on uncertainty about the future.
However, it doesn’t glamorise disaster. Rather, it integrates its disaster sequences cleverly into the context of John’s spiritual quest and personal commitment to save his son.
The science behind the movie is sufficiently credible and the moral is clear that through apparent randomness in life, there is nearly always true purpose that hides there, and it is this that fires the resolve of John Koestler.
The plot of the movie is a little bit of a hard-to-believe story from a team of writers involving the director, but it is presented well by Proyas in a gritty, realistic way that challenges the viewer to look for meaning in everything that is happening.
Some disturbing scenes in the movie make it almost as dark as the previous films that Proyas has directed. We see grotesque images (burning animals, and people on fire), and the disaster sequences are filmed very convincingly.
This is a smart science fiction movie that makes clever use of natural uncertainty about the world’s future. There is more than a hint of its trying to unravel the ultimate meaning of what happened in the US on September 11, 2001.
It is a movie that tugs at our emotions, and it deals with the supernatural in ways which lead the viewer in directions that suddenly turn themselves around to mean something different.
Reflecting the character of the science fiction-supernatural genre, the film explores life’s issues philosophically, but true also to its character, it can’t answer all of the questions it raises.
When the final moment comes, it is unclear, for example, why the world didn’t require saving for the people in it, and one wonders what really lies ahead for a uni-racial society that is presented implicitly as its salvation.
Despite a few blemishes, this is a thriller that is highly entertaining, well acted, and directed.
It is genuinely scary in places, maintains its tension throughout, and trades effectively on everyone’s concerns about what the future holds for today’s world; hopefully, that won’t be exactly what this movie shows.