As someone with a love for cinema and a love for talking about movies, certain complications arise with the thought of sitting down to write about them. As a critic, it’s crucial to give away as little as possible, while also unveiling enough about the plot to hook the reader. With Predestination, a new sci-fi mind-bender from the Spierig brothers (Daybreakers), that is the case. So, if you are reading this and haven’t seen the film, I promise that I’ll tread lightly.
Even at a mere 97 minutes, Predestination is a loaded movie, opening with a mysterious scene involving some kind of man burning alive, posing more questions than it answers. Then, after a monologue by Ethan Hawke’s character (an unnamed temporal agent), the title flashes and we cut to the 1970s. Hawke’s character is now a bartender in New York City, and a heavy fear dangles in the atmosphere because of a killer dubbed the “Fizzle Bomber.” As Hawke’s character is bartending, a mysterious man walks in and bets him that he has the best story he’ll ever hear. The first half of the movie is this man telling his story, complete with flashbacks that work very well for the progression of the story. Then the movie hits the halfway mark and it becomes a bizarre, thought-provoking, and sometimes brilliant sci-fi adventure filled with mind-bending twists.
I watched this film by way of Redbox (it released on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday), and one of the best things I can say about the experience was how much I enjoyed the first half. This is one of the most hyped up science fiction movies in recent movies, so as I put the disc into my DVD drive, I expected some visually stunning and complex stuff. For the first half (save the opening sequence), it isn’t any of that. It’s just this mysterious man (I can’t give anything away here, but if you’ve seen the movie, you know who he is) telling Ethan Hakwe’s Bartender about his life. It’s written with a sense of perspective and care, and I really felt for this character.
As the Bartender, Ethan Hawke (who has worked with the Spierig brothers before in Daybreakers and is now up for an Oscar for his work in Boyhood) is terrific, giving what seems to be a subdued performance for the first half and then steps up his game when the fantastical stuff comes into play. But it isn’t his show. There is a character that I have not mentioned yet (again, I’m trying to tread lightly here, so bear with me) and she is played by Sarah Snook, and she is without a doubt the star of the show. Her performance, which I can’t spoil, is remarkable, bringing out the best qualities of Tatiana Maslaney in Orphan Black. If I would’ve seen this movie back when it initially released, I would’ve been petitioning for Snook to receive a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars. She’s absolutely brilliant.
There is so much to say about Predestination, but I’m going to leave it there. To go any further would be to distract you from its intention. If you go in knowing virtually nothing, I promise you that it will make the movie so much better. It’s one of those films that make you run to the IMDB message boards to discuss the ending with others, and when you do, things become clearer. Even if sci-fi diehards claim that it has gaping plot holes in the future, what will stand true is that this adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story -All You Zombies- is a fun, well-acted, and immensely thought-provoking piece of work.
Rated R for for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Written and directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig