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Review: Find Some Time to Check Out PREDESTINATION

Review: Find Some Time to Check Out PREDESTINATION


The very best thing about reviewing movies is watching how certain filmmakers improve after each effort. Take, for example, the Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig. About a decade ago they hit the festival circuit with a very raucous action-filled horror comedy called Undead, which isn’t exactly a brilliant movie, but it definitely exhibits a whole lot of color, noise, and energy — and that’s the sort of stuff that helps your film make an impact on the festival circuit.

A few years later the brothers returned with another genre-bender called Daybreakers (2009), a science fiction vampire story that somehow managed to maintain a straight face through some potentially silly ideas, and the result was a futuristic horror cocktail that works a whole lot better than one might expect, based solely on the plot description. Superior work from the likes of Sam Neill and Ethan Hawke are a large part of why Daybreakers works so well…

So it should come as no surprise to see the Spierig brothers enlist Mr. Hawke for their third feature, which is a time-travel brain-twister of the most fascinating variety. This low-key but highly intelligent Australian import Predestination is based on Robert Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies,” and it’s not only the Spierig brothers’ best film; it’s one of the most intriguing time-travel movies to hit the screens in quite some time.

Ethan Hawke (excellent, as always) plays a “temporal agent” whose job is to leap back in time and thwart the efforts of the infamous “fizzle bomber,” a terrorist who will ultimately take the lives of 11,000 New Yorkers. While on assignment in the early 1970s, our hero poses as a bartender and strikes up an unlikely friendship with an unusual patron — and that’s where this “simple” plot synopsis draws to a close. The fun of Predestination lies in discovering the clues that the filmmakers lay down, so let’s just say that the bartender and his new pal have met before. More than once, in fact, and under some rather bizarre circumstances.

Not content to simply toss a few “temporal anomaly” subplots at the screen, the co-writers have done a masterful job of capturing Heinlein’s themes, ideas, and frequently audacious concepts. In other words, Predestination deals with some unexpectedly subversive ideas (transgender identity crises, for example) but never stumbles into, ugh, melodrama or, even worse, unintentional comedy. There’s a refreshing sense of class, maturity, and restraint to Predestination, which probably stems from the directors’ affection for the source material, and their enthusiasm for the story and its lofty ideas all but leaps from the screen.

As usual, Ethan Hawke brings a calm command to even the craziest of genre stories; in Predestination the guy gets to run through all sorts of physical transformations, and he never misses a beat.  Australian actress Sarah Snook has no trouble keeping up with the veteran Hawke, and her performance(s) are reminscient of both Jodie Foster and Leonardo DiCaprio. (Bizarre compliment, sure, but not if you’ve seen the film.) Throw in some essential support / exposition work from the great Noah Taylor, a stellar musical score, and a truly impressive screenplay that somehow pulls some legitimate emotion out of some really strange places… there’s simply a whole lot to like about Predestination.

And based only on their progression after three features, I cannot wait to see what the Spierig boys cook up next.

4.5 out of 5 temporal burritos

4.5 burritos


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  1. ie says:

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  2. Axelsanx says:

    Nice spoiler free review.  Being a huge Heinlein fan, I have to say, the 1st movie based on his work that tires very hard to keep close to his work.  OK, The Puppet Masters actually was the closest before this movie.  They mainly just took the futuristic stuff out of it.  I do agree that the acting by the leads was top notch.  The production values are good when it comes to all the different time periods the movie had to deal with.

    • Axelsanx says:

      Should add, I still wonder why Hollywood is so afraid of Heinlein’s works.  Maybe some day we will see a REAL Starship Troopers besides that stupid Paul Verhoeven movie.

      • Chimpinalls says:

        While I would also love to see a proper Starship Troopers as written by Heinlein, I have to argue that the Verhoeven movie is not as stupid as it would appear on the surface. I believe that as a man whose childhood was spent in Holland during WWII, he was trying to show that by filling the cast with “90210”-type actors in a sweeping action movie with little moral ambiguity while at the same time constantly making visual references to Nazis, Verhoeven was showing how easy it is to make an audience side with fascism. Good wartime propaganda is always that we are the good, brave young beautiful people and the enemy is made up of nothing but animals. Your repulsion at the movie shows that you are not the type to get caught up in that kind of thinking which is good but the fact that most of the audience that saw this film thought it as merely “awesome” is a troubling truth. I’d like to give Verhoeven the benefit of the doubt that that was what he was trying to say.