Predestination (2014) / Sci Fi-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Director: The Spierig Brothers
Screenplay: The Spierig Brothers (based on the short story, "All You Zombies", by Robert A. Heinlein)
Review published November 23, 2014
Robert A. Heinlein's classic short story of 1959, "All You Zombies", provides the basis for this ambitious Australian-produced science fiction thriller that greatly explores the various paradoxes that can occur in time travel. At its heart, it's a bizarre and eerie tale that will likely cause many a headache among audiences trying to keep track of the various timelines and how they affect one another, though relating just why it is all so confusing would probably encroach into spoiler territory, so I'll just state that it's a head-trip-and-a-half.
As with the Heinlein story, the backbone is about an androgynous stranger (Snook, Jessabelle) who walks into a bar in order to relate to the bartender (Hawke, Boyhood) a story about how he literally became the man he is today. He's a writer who pens a monthly 'confessional' column in a popular magazine utilizing the anonymous name of the "Unmarried Mother", something he can speak about with great authority, given that he was once born a woman.
To say much more might ruin the film's serpentine narrative for some, so I'll leave it at that. The Spierig Brothers (Undead), Michael and Peter, who collaborate for the second time with Hawke (after Daybreakers), flesh out the Heinlein story to make its main protagonist a time-traveling special agent sent to the past to stop the temporally adept terrorist known as the Fizzle Bomber from succeeding in his plan to set off a bomb in New York City that takes the lives of over 10 thousand innocent people in 1975.
Ethan Hawke delivers what you'd expect out of him, but it's up-and-coming Australian actress Sarah Snook who impresses the most, playing both a male and female role. One might rightfully say she's giving a very Jodie Foster-esque performance here, and not just because she resembles a younger version of the veteran actress -- she gives a real performance un the middle of what could have been just an esoteric exercise in time travel paradox. It's her performance that ultimately got me on board.
If there is a main problem with the film is that its twists and turns are easily guessed at, primarily because we can easily surmise the reasons why certain characters aren't shown facially. Given there is a dearth of characters to follow, major reveals seem like expected story elements, and though not without intelligence, one can easily see why Heinlein's story would work so well in written form and could be hampered in the visual medium of film. However, those who are able to bring their own philosophical meaning underneath the gimmicky plotline may find it an interesting take on identity, gender, discovering ones purpose, and, as the title implies, fate.
Due to the overly complex, circular plotline and bizarre, gender-bending nature of certain characterizations, Predestination will be of limited appeal to just those who like strange sci-fi flicks and total mind-f*ck storylines. I'd venture, if you like Cloud Atlas, you may be predestined to like this one.
©2014 Vince Leo