by Rick Grant
Grade: B+ / Rated PG-13 / 122 min
With the economic crisis causing great emotional turmoil among the populace, what we need is a good old end of the world movie to put everything in perspective. Yes, compared to the sun sending out earth scorching, radioactive flares, that could turn the Earth into a life ending conflagration, our present worries are minor. It’s pure escapism fantasy.
In the fall, Roland Emmerich’s 2012, starring John Cusack, will explore the hype about the date (2012) of an earth ending apocalypse as predicted by the Mayan calender and a bunch of other so called prophets like Merlin and Nostradamus. It’s more end of the world vicarious thrills and unscientific speculation.
This film, co-written and directed by Alex Proyas, could be called a cross between Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Armageddon. Nicolas Cage stars as an astrophysicist and professor at MIT, John Koestler. He discovers a sheet of numbers which his son received from his school’s time capsule 50th anniversary.
One night, while knocking back shots of whiskey, Koestler begins to see significance in the seemingly random series of numbers. The numbers contain dates that coincide with various disasters over 50 years, and the other numbers are coordinates, or specific locations of the disasters, and the exact number of deaths at each site. He takes his discovery to a colleague who warns him it may just be a coincidence.
However, Koestler has the poof that the plane crashes and other calamities actually happened. He researches who wrote the page of numbers and discovers she’s dead, but her daughter, Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne) is alive and has a daughter about the same age as his son. Damn, no time for romance in this scenario.
More interestingly, Koestler discovers there are future forecasts of disasters that haven’t happened. So, he meets with Diana and it turns out her daughter and his son are psychically communicating with advance alien beings-perhaps millions of years more advanced than humankind. What does all this mean? Well, Koestler’s scientific curiosity is running full throttle.
It just so happens that Koestler is at the exact site of a plane crash and witnesses the horrors of the aftermath-people on fire and death all around. He then learns of his son’s psychic communication with the alien life forms. And, he begins to put together the sequence of events that are about to happen.
This character is typical Nicholas Cage’s style of starring role which he cruises through with abandon. Rose Byrne, an Aussie from FX’s Damages, plays her role as Diana with proper angst of a women whose mother had misunderstood psychic abilities and wrote the numbers’ predictions.
The two child actors Chandler Canterbury and Lara Robinson, playing John and Diana’s offspring are well coached by director Proyas not to overact. They are the key to unlocking the final chapter of Earth. The two kids instinctually know that the aliens mean no harm. But Koestler freaks out when he sees them in human form.
Proyas’ pacing is slow in the beginning of the film, but it accelerates in the middle building momentum to the grand finale. In real life, the possibility of some Earth ending catastrophe is always present. The sun could go unstable and send out massive gamma ray flares. Just two weeks ago a previously unknown asteroid as big as Manhattan passed only 48,000 miles from Earth-a very close encounter. If it had hit us, we’d be history. So, the movie has enough truth to keep it real but it’s great fun to see it happen in cinemascope.