Fifty years after an elementary school buries a time capsule, the modern-day student body unearths it. Everyone gets crappy Crayon drawings they’re all excited about, but lil’ Caleb (Chandler Canterbury, After.Life) receives a page of seemingly random numbers. His dad, John (Nicolas Cage), a “cool” science professor who says “Shit just happens” in class, gives it the ol’ look-see.
John determines the numbers aren’t random at all: Down to the date, casualty count and flippin’ GPS coordinates, they’ve predicted five decades’ worth of tragedies. Like what, you ask? Oh, everything from a hotel fire to something called lil’ ol’ 9/11 — perhaps you’ve heard of it? While Caleb gets a buzzing in his ears and is pursued by mysterious men who can shoot light out their mouths, his dad tries to prevent the remaining three tragedies.
Those “will they or won’t they happen?” sequences allow for some nifty effects sequences, from a passenger jet crash to a subway crash, but CGI visuals hardly can be the backbone of a sci-fi thriller. Director Alex Proyas — who’s worked on both sides of the genre spectrum with Dark City and I, Robot — should know better, but casting Cage was perhaps more damaging than anything in (or not in) the script. The once-great actor no longer can so much as yell convincingly, so of course, it’s now his go-to emotion.
With Rose Byrne (Insidious) on hand as a useless female lead, the movie all leads to a laugh-out-loud ending that combines Close Encounters with plodding stupidity. By then, any intrigue generated by the setup has eroded roughly 90 minutes prior. To paraphrase an old adage, sometimes not Knowing is better than Knowing. This is one of those times: a disaster flick that’s a disaster in itself. —Rod Lott