A man walks into a bar and tells the daftest life story imaginable. The resulting contrivance of twisty plot devices, unlike 2013’s Looper, is disappointingly loopy.
Writer/producer/directors the Spierig Brothers deliver an understated new take on Heinlein’s classic sci-fi tale of causal loops in time travel, but which can’t escape the Twilight Zone tropes to it’s all too predictable conclusion.
Ethan Hawke (the brilliant Gattaca and not-so Daybreakers) is reliable as ever as the rugged time agent, while newcomer Sarah Snook is an amazing leading lady but possibly the least convincing leading man in cinema history.
Time travel was invented in 1985 (why???) by a mysterious government agency headed by Noah Taylor’s (Edge of Tomorrow) Mr. Robertson, with the purpose of preventing crimes before they happen. If that doesn’t set your time-paradox alarm bells ringing, then Minority Report, Timecop and Primer were all for nothing. Especially if you’ve read Henlein’s story.
The agency’s biggest case concerns the hunt for the Fizzle Bomber, a terrorist operating through the 60’s and 70’s who is one step ahead at every intervention and outwitting Hawke’s time agent from the outset.
So what does the engaging Sarah Snook’s foundling orphan Jane Doe, and her drawn out biography, have to do with any of this? Other than remind us of the much more successful Gattaca?
Predestination has many more issues to add to those already noted. Snook plays multiple roles under prosthetics, about as successfully as the Warchawski’s Cloud Atlas, which is to say, not very. The intelligent but thuddingly dull, overly signposted script tries to follow Inception‘s footsteps (including an Inception-lite soundtrack by Peter Spierig), but bogs down in character detail. Wow, of all the things to criticise of current movie-making.
Sarah Snook tries her best as a trans-gender, channeling David Bowie’s Man Who Fell to Earth, but just can’t convince, falling a mile short of Tilda Swinton’s Orlando. Gruff, butch Hawke also fails to convince by the final reveal, which is a shame as he was doing so well until then as a Blade Runner-ish Philip Marlowe.
You’d like to think that Predestination is going to challenge the notion of fate; man making the future by dint of his choices. Unfortunately the movie plays this theme straight down the line for an hour and twenty minutes then shoots itself squarely in the chest, spectacularly blowing the whole cause-and-effect monolith to pieces; proving once again that no time travel movie can possibly make sense.
Better, perhaps, to hang the sense of it and charge about raiding the dressing up box like Dr. Who (not really about time travel, wilfully breaking all the rules); or, just go for alternate histories and keep the action coming like X-Men (plain silly comic-book fun).
Predestination, even to sci-fi officionado’s, is a daring but dull exercise which, despite Hawke and Snook’s best efforts, just can’t rise above the silliness of it’s own plot. See it if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. RC
Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writers: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Running time: 1 hr. 37 min.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Related: Source Code