dir. The Spierig Brothers
starring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, and Noah Taylor
Poignant and intelligent science fiction drama. Despite its trite premise, Predestination is a treat that places the focus on strong characters.
Predestination begins with a man in a trenchcoat racing against the clock to diffuse a bomb. The diffusion is successful, but the man’s face is burned beyond recognition. Cut to the hospital, where that man wakes up and is revealed as Ethan Hawke. In Predestination, Ethan Hawke plays a time travel agent hunting down the man responsible for massive bombing in New York, 1975. He poses as a bartender in 1970’s New York, presumably to find the killer. Then, a man walks into the bar, and then the real story begins.
The bartender, Ethan Hawke, places a bet: a good story for a bottle of scotch. The man tells the bartender that he was born a girl, Jane. Jane (Sarah Snook) was an orphan who was always out of place. She got pregnant and, during the delivery, the doctors discovered she had two sets of reproductive organs, male and female. The doctors removed her female organs, and Jane was forced to become John. Soon after that discovery, her baby was kidnapped from the hospital. Sarah Snook has the meatier role, and tougher job as the emotional anchor. This could have easily been given the Lifetime movie treatment or been hastily shoe-horned into the bomb plot. Thankfully, the filmmakers place the emphasis on character development, so we identify with Jane/John. After hearing his story, Ethan Hawke gives John another proposal: go back in time and kill the man who ruined him.
Predestination is based on the short story “All You Zombies” by sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein. After reading a synopsis of the story, it’s surprising that the piece the filmmakers added was the terrorist bomb plot, which is the weakest piece of the film. Predestination is a paradox wrapped in an enigma inside of a puzzle. The paradox, enigma, and puzzle add up to the belief that free-will is non-existent. As the film becomes more deterministic, it also becomes more stifling. The past determines the future which determines the past. Ugh. It’s hopeless. Also, the weight of history gives the film a feeling of claustrophobia. That doesn’t detract from the experience of watching the film. That frustration prompts repeat viewings and discussions.
On a side note: for those that found the film silly, imagine the movie being remade as the Mirrors: the Kanye West Story.
Recommend: Yes. Although the plot isn’t the most surprising, Predestination’s emphasis on character gives the plot twists a greater emotional impact.
Availability: DVD and Blu-ray, Redbox, Amazon Instant Video