Sunday 31 August 2014

Film Review: Predestination

Predestination is a science-fiction time-travel movie from a duo of up-and-coming Australian directors, the Spierig brothers. Set across a period of 50 years, it follows a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) as he journeys through time on the tail of a criminal who has continually eluded him. 

Predestination is the kind of film you simply cannot summarise in a sentence. It constantly twists and turns, double-backing on itself time and again before the last few pieces of the puzzle are finally laid...and then the credits roll. To give you a full summary of the film would be to rob you of a gripping, edge-of-your-seat 90 minutes where second-guessing the plot becomes second nature.

Based on a short-story entitled 'All You Zombies', Predestination sees Ethan Hawke play a Temporal Agent who is on the tail of a dangerous 'Fizzle Bomber', a terrorist plaguing 1970's New York. Having eluded him throughout time, Hawke must once again delve undercover to expose the bomber - and it's here he meets a person with an interesting story to tell - one that he'll never forget.

Firstly, it is important to note that the narrative is predominantly driven by dialogue and anecdotes, rather than expensive and mind-numbing action. Where other time-travel films side-step narrative cul-de-sacs through pyrotechnics, Predestination powers through them, charging head-on into Butterfly Effect icky weirdness. Seriously, things get messed up. Time travel, man. Don't do it.

This may sound like a bad thing, but it's really not. What I'm trying to say is that the film defies convention in a way that is refreshing. I was expecting something more traditional, with a third act drenched in VFX. It made me sit up and take notice. Part of the reason for this was the central role played by Sarah Snook.

Whilst Ethan Hawke may get the lead role, the undoubted star of the show was the young Australian actress. Billed only as 'The Unmarried Mother', Snook's performance through her character's convoluted and twisted arc is fantastic. Other than appearing in a handful of Australian TV series over the past few years, Snook was a relative unknown to me - until now. This is her breakout role, the first of what I hope will be many movies for the talent 26-year-old. Did I mention how brilliant she was?

Hawke meanwhile plays a mentor-type character to Snook's, and it was also great to see him handle the loopy time-travel exposition with ease. His mission to bring the destructive terrorist to justice continually throws new questions at the audience, as the various time periods and character paths intersect and overlap. You know, typical time travel stuff.

Tonally, the film felt a bit lost at times. Is it a confident, mainstream time-travel caper? Or something more arthouse? The film feels as though it can't make up its mind, sometimes veering too far into the latter. That being said, it is gorgeously shot, as the Spierig brothers (in what is only their second big-budget film after 2010's Daybreakers) squeeze a lot of stylish angles and camerawork from the various period settings.

This makes for a film with a gorgeous neo-noir style that is oddly paced, cutting between an extended anecdote driven opening half and a more straight-forward conclusion. Even then, the 'race-against-time' aspect you'd expect to see (see Looper, Source Code, Edge of Tomorrow) is cast aside for something a bit more downbeat and dialogue-driven.

The Verdict: 8/10

A cross between Minority Report and The Butterfly Effect, Predestination might not have the punch to satisfy VFX-hungry audiences, but those interested in layered, complex 'mindbenders' should sign-up straight away. Sarah Snook masters the web of intersecting narratives to hit it big, whilst uneven pacing hampers an otherwise intriguing and gripping runtime. 


  1. Replies
    1. Yikes! That's an awesome little infographic you have there :) It's a super loopy film huh? So something like your diagram helps lots :)

  2. One of the very best sci-fi movies I have ever seen, and I mean real sci-fi, not cowboys in space ships.

    1. Wow, high praise indeed! Certainly a future cult classic if you ask me :)



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