I can’t imagine how this film slipped past my radar three years ago. I had never heard about it, nor recall mention of it on blogs or reviews. I love films with time-travel themes, and generally try to find out about any new ones. This appeared on a TV film channel, and as soon as I read the synopsis, I was excited about watching it. Without any spoilers, giving this film an overall review is quite challenging. I will let you have a rough idea of the story, but any real explanation of what happens would ruin it for anyone who is interested.
The first thing to note is that it is based on a short story by that giant of science-fiction, Robert A. Heinlein. That at least means it should have an excellent pedigree. Then there are the directors, the Australian Spierig Brothers, known for the vampire film ‘Daybreakers'(2010). That film also starred Ethan Hawke, and they team up with him again for ‘Predestination’. The film is set in three distinct time periods. It begins in a contemporary future, which is like some kind of ‘alternative’ America. It goes back to 1945, then into the 1970s. All of these time transitions are very nicely done, and the viewer is never left in any doubt about what period the action is happening in.
Hawke stars as the unnamed ‘Barkeep’, who is actually a time-travelling agent from the future, working for an organisation known as the ‘Temporal Agency’. Their remit is to send people back into the past, in an effort to stop major crimes and atrocities from happening. One night, whilst posing as a bartender in 1970s New York, the Barkeep is told a fascinating and almost unbelievable story, by a customer called John. That story is woven into the events of this film inextricably, and involves abandoned babies, a criminal dubbed ‘The Fizzle Bomber’, and the last mission of the Barkeep as a temporal agent.
On that mission, he meets the enigmatic Jane, (Sarah Snook) a young woman with an interesting history, and unusual talents. Her life is also part of the complex story, and she is equally drawn into the events surrounding the Fizzle Bomber’, and the story of John, the bar customer. Rather than reveal anything that might spoil enjoyment, I pretty much have to leave it there, though I will add the reasons why this film is exceptionally good, and a marvellous entry into the time travel/ sci-fi genre.
It looks great. Unusual colour palettes, and an often dreamy cinematography give this film the sense of something that could have been made a long time ago. Despite the complexity of the plot, it is never confusing, and feels like it is always flowing just right. Ethan Hawke is solid as the male lead, though a creepy performance from Noah Taylor, as the occasionally-seen Mister Robertson also stuck in my mind. But as Jane, the Australian actress, Sarah Snook, steals the show, and the film right out from under everyone else. The only word to describe her performance is ‘outstanding’. Even though I guessed the important ‘reveal’ before halfway through, (I have seen TOO many films…) it did not spoil my enjoyment in the least. I loved it!
If you don’t enjoy this sort of film, you are unlikely to be converted by ‘Predestination’. However, if you liked ‘Timecrimes’, ‘Twelve Monkeys’, ‘Primer’, or any films like those, then I am certain that you will find this one as fascinating as I did.
Here’s a trailer.