Ethan Hawke stars is a film production that is far more perplexing and engaging than is conveyed in its promotional plot synopsis. ‘Predestination’ is promoted as a story of a time travel as it relates to stopping the perpetrator of a criminal act before the act is committed, putting one in the mind of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report.’
‘Predestination’ is the tale of a time traveling agent on a mission to assassinate a man dubbed The Fizzle Bomber. The Fizzle Bomber is responsible for a March 1975 explosion that kills 11 thousand people in New York City. The agency is called the Temporal Bureau and the time-traveling agent is called a temporal agent. This particular agent (portrayed by Ethan Hawke) is able to transport himself through time via what looks like a violin case that can be used to set dates in history. A completed transportation in time is called a jump. Completing a jump takes a physical and mental toll on a jumper.
An attempt to assassinate The Fizzle Bomber fails after a bomb goes off and burns the agents face. The agent is given a face transplant and is then sent on a final mission before he is sent into retirement. He jumps back to 1970’s New York City where he takes a job as a bartender and wittingly ends up in a conversation with a man who writes true confession stories for women. As it turns out the male writer was actually born a female.
The writer (Sarah Snook), sits down with the bartender to tell his sordid story of having been a foundling left on the door step of an orphanage, and over the years being outcast as peculiar, aloof, and overly-aggressive. Into womanhood, due to her daring and intellect, she is sought after by a government agent to go into to a space travel training program. But she is thrown out of the program after brutalizing another fellow candidate who provoked her into a fist fight.
After returning to civilian life she bumps into a stranger on the street and falls in love with him. Viewers never see his face. She becomes pregnant but the man abandons her. To add insult to injury the jubilant new mother discovers that a strange man has walked into the hospital nursery and gotten away with taking her baby. It is then, while in the hospital, that the writer is given the unnerving news that she has the inner-workings of both male and female but that they had to give her a hysterectomy after the birth of the child, leaving them only with an opening to further operate on her to make her a fully-functioning man. The writer agrees to the surgeries and soon enough begins her new life as a man.
After hearing her story the bartender admits who he is and reveals to the writer that he believes the father of her baby is The Fizzle Bomber, and that he can go back in time to murder him. The writer agrees, and they both go back in time to the day that the writer bumps in to the strange man. This time viewers see the face of the man, and he turns out to be the writer. He is essentially romancing the female version of himself.
Here is where audiences may have to start paying very close attention. By the end of the film viewers may be at a loss to recognize what has transpired. Some may feel the desire to see ‘Predestination’ again after feeling left in the dark, even though ever-present clues abound in this tale of a snake eating away at its own tail. This serves as a plus to Predestination not a failing.
A combination of The Sixth Sense meets Inception meets Minority Report, Predestination is cleverly written and directed by twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, and presents a mind-bending anomaly of paradoxical twists and turns that can and will handily perplex individual viewers. The finale will render viewers into a mind-pause mode. Proverbial wheels will begin to spin. The mind pause is necessary and serves to validate that The Spierig Brothers have successfully executed their design of this science fiction tale.
This film is not for the slow-witted. Viewers who prefer in-your-face, automatic, and mindless thrills will be sorely taken aback by having use their wits to ascertain what is happening in front of the them on the silver screen. ‘Predestination’ moves at a pace that is comfortably slow enough as to not put the viewers to sleep, and yet masterfully sets the audience up for a mind trip-up.
Ethan Hawke as the bartender-agent has never been a performance slouch, but is indeed getting better with age. He can also be seen right now in the 2014 hit ‘Boyhood’. Hawke as the beleaguered agent is somewhat stoic and brooding. His poker-faced demeanor does not allow room for delineation between coherent rhyme and reason, and clouded ambiguity.
That being said, relative newcomer Sarah Snook as The Writer has hit pay dirt in this role as a troubled and friendless outcast betrayed by her own body. This role is by far meatier than that of Hawke’s, rendering ‘Predestination’ Snook’s movie. Snook dominates the screen in this role and is certain to find a host of new scripts to keep her busy for the next few years.
The Spierig Brothers as well remain relative newcomers and with ‘Predestination’ now comfortably under their belts, they too can look forward to greater notoriety in the very near future.
Based on a Robert A. Heinlein short story, ‘Predestination’ is 97 minutes long and rated R. Paying close attention while viewing this film is paramount to avoid having to see this mind-bender twice. It is well worth the price of admission. 3 1/2 Stars.
“When All Is Said And Done… You’ll Go To The Movies” – JWL
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