Directed by The Spierig Brothers.
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Madeleine West, Christopher Kirby, Christopher Sommers and Noah Taylor.
The life of a time-travelling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
Time is linear and moves forward, so says the “science”. Most recently, it was Christopher Nolan and his black-holes, tesseract’s and singularities that have brought time and destiny to the big screen as he examined how we perceive time and its ever-ticking destination. With a slightly different take on the time, destiny and the paradoxes that come with the manipulations of time are directors The Spierig Brothers with Predestination, one of the bravest, craziest but supremely entertaining sci-fi’ers of recent years.
Predestination is a film that takes many chances, enjoying its almost shackle-free production from the Hollywood system who may have thought different to a film about time paradoxes, genre (and gender) bending and the complex, maze-like storyline. In different, more “money-centric” hands, the film could well have been torn to shreds, with the convoluted, head-scratching story and character beats being turned into something that was nowhere near as brave and original as this one.
Said story: well, let’s skip some of it for now. The less you know, the better as the Spierig Brothers’ script, based on an already trip short story, is a complete and total “head fuck”, but quite bluntly. While Nolan has his dreams and black holes and Shyamalan has his twists and turns (well, used to), the sibling duo tackle time in similar vein to James Cameron and countless others. Starting with a short action beat that leads to an explosion and one very-burnt individual, the snowball begins gathering pace almost immediately.
We then meet Hawke’s character and his occupation: a temporal-time agent entrusted by a typically shady organisation that are on the hunt for the “bomber” and believe through their abilities to time-travel, that the clues will soon emerge as to how they can catch him. Transporting to 1978 undercover as a barkeeper, he meets John, a local man who after a brief chat and a bet over life stories, discovers that both he and the barkeeper may have more in common than either could have anticipated, particularly when a young lady named Jane (Snook) becomes the focus of their discussions,
Hawke, on something of a career Renaissance (Hawkissance?) recently with his award-winning turn in Boyhood as well as his recent casting in Antoine Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven remake, also excels as the mysterious Barkeeper. Enjoying a good mix of character and action-orientated set-pieces that sees him get his hands dirty, Hawke is his effervescent best here once again.
The star turn here though is from Aussie Sarah Snook, who is quite simply spellbinding. Tasked with portraying two different yet subtly familiar characters is a tough ask for an actor, especially for one still in the infancy of their career. But Snook launches herself head first into the role, beautifully balancing the ever-changing contours of both structure and character to perfection throughout, and is impossible to keep your eyes off. It’s the type of breakthrough that will make all of Tinseltown stand-up and take notice, and this is certainly not the last we will have heard from the actress.
The downside with a movie such as this is that many may find it impenetrable: the science and the space-time “gobbledegook” may be hard to grasp for many, and its topsy-turvy process may have some reaching for the stop button. Indeed, there are certainly some head-scratching moments that take a little while to fully understand the themes and subtleties, but this is a film that rewards your time and your patience in the end.
Furthermore, those wanting more of a full-blown “smash-bang” kind of sci-fi actioner will be disappointed: this is a movie built on character and story and those wanting something more penetrative may be better served elsewhere. But Predestination has great pay-offs in scope, ideas and performance, with Snook in particular worthy of a watch alone. Thoughtful, imaginative and surprisingly profound, it’s one of the year’s best hidden gems, and is well worth your time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★