Interesting ideas marred by flawed execution, describes this latest effort from helmer Alex Proyas. Most of the critics didn’t like the movie, either because they are confused by the concepts, don’t like the bold theological references, or because they cannot forgive the uneven pacing and quirky narrative style—or maybe all of the above.
The film begins in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1959, as the new William Dawes Elementary School celebrates its opening by filling a time capsule with pictures of what the kids think the world will be like in 2009. This was the winning idea suggested by student Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson), a sad-eyed girl whose own contribution to the capsule is not a picture at all. Rather, it is a sheet containing nothing but numbers, boldly written on both sides of the page.
Fast forward to the present, and the capsule is being opened during the school’s gala 50th anniversary celebration. The contents are handed out to a group of students, and Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) gets Lucinda’s contribution. He takes it home to his MIT astrophysics professor father John (Nicolas Cage) thinking that the numbers might mean something.
John, still drowning his sorrows over the loss of his wife, does take a look at the sheet, and numbers signifying 9/11/01 jump off the page. He later determines that the numbers listed reflect the date, number of deaths, and coordinates of essentially every significant disaster since 1959.
He explains this to a colleague (Ben Mendelsohn), who doesn’t buy it, but becomes a true believer the very next day when an airliner crashes at the precise location, and with the number of deaths specified. Ominously, a few more events are predicted, so the question becomes: What to do? Complicating matters is the appearance of some sinister-looking characters who seem to be tailing Caleb, and are even speaking to his mind in whispers.
To help make sense of it all, John tracks down Lucinda’s daughter and granddaughter. It turns out that the same characters are also hanging around Abby, the granddaughter (also played by Lara Robinson).
Meanwhile, John is beginning to sense that there is some sort of purpose here, and that Abby and Caleb are involved in a special way. For him to believe that there is a greater purpose in these events is a sea change in his attitude, since he is the now secular son of a pastor.
Things will get messy as the story unfolds, but the fast pace of events towards the end is probably realistic, given their gravity.
Although there are FX here, this is more of a cerebral sci-fi pic, as we examine the notions of a random or deterministic universe. We wonder also who these “whisper people” might be.
The movie’s ending is a bit of a surprise, and not all the questions are answered. We can tell you that all of Lucinda’s predictions come true, and that you will likely be talking about this film long after the lights come back on in your favorite multiplex.
Even if Proyas did not succeed completely, it was one hell of an effort.