MOVIE REVIEW: PREDESTINATION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL SPIERIG, PETER SPIERIG / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL SPIERIG, PETER SPIERIG / STARRING: ETHAN HAWKE, SARAH SNOOK, NOAH TAYLOR / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 20TH
Predestination is extraordinary. Just go and see it. In a perfect world we’d leave it right there, give Predestination the rating it deserves – see below – and just move right on. It’s one of those films you just have to see and it’s best if you see it unencumbered by opinion, comment or, God forbid in this case, spoilers. Based on Robert A. Heinlen’s 1958 short story All You Zombies, Predestination, a low-budget Australian sci-fi movie from the Spierig Brothers (also responsible for the memorable Ethan Hawke vampire drama Daybreakers back in 2009), reminds us that when the genre is firing on all cylinders and it allows its imagination free reign, it’s still capable of genuine cinematic innovation. There are no huge special effects set pieces here, no interminable scenes of apocalyptic devastation, not even any heroes and villains. This is a sci-fi film driven by wonderful ideas, smart performances and a central conceit so extraordinary and clever it will leave you reeling and thinking about what you’ve seen for days after the experience.
In its purest sense, Predestination is a time travel movie. But it’s not concerned with people who travel backwards and forwards in time and get home again in time for tea. It’s about consequences, cause and effect, paradoxes. It’s a story which uses time travel to power an exquisitely-convoluted and yet simultaneously commendably linear storyline. We won’t delve into the intricacies of the plot here because it’s one best savoured as it unfolds at its own pace. But in its broadest terms, it concerns Ethan Hawke’s unnamed Temporal Bureau agent sent back in time from the future to prevent the terrorist atrocities of the so-called Fizzle Bomber (whose damp squib name does not pass unremarked upon in the script). A curious stranger walks into the bar in which the Agent has secured employment and proceeds to tell him a remarkable, poignant and, initially, entirely un-sci-fi life story. Told largely in flashback, the story becomes increasingly mesmerising and increasingly fanciful, and before long our minds are not only struggling to keep up but vaulting ahead in an attempt to foresee its coming twists and turns and paradoxes. Like the very best time travel stories, Predestination is multi-layered and multi-facetted, and if the ending itself is a little predictable you really won’t mind too much because the journey is so rich and conceptually-rewarding, and its performances – not just from the ever-dependable Hawke but by the heartbreakingly good Sarah Snook – are utterly compulsive.
Predestination arrives in that slightly thumb-twiddling period before Hollywood wheels out its (increasingly tiresome) summer big guns. This year promises more of the usual stew of superheroes, monsters and mindless mayhem, and there’s a vague chance some of it might even be vaguely entertaining or at least pass a couple of hours agreeably enough. But we’re willing to wager that, at year’s end, if you’re wise enough to find time for a bit of Predestination, you’ll be slotting it high in your Top Ten of the year well above tentpole movies which cost twenty times more to make but which don’t have a twentieth of Predestination’s audacious imagination. In its own quiet and unassuming way, Predestination is a breathtaking piece of cinema.
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