Ethan Hawke in "Predestination"

Ethan Hawke in “Predestination”

I’m not going to spoil it for you. And trust me, that’s going to make it very hard to write this review. However, if you like a good time-travel mind-busting scifi, Predestination is sure to satisfy you. 12 hours later and I’m still trying to work out the central paradox but I think it holds together, a lot better than Looper anyway, and more attainable than Primer, which despite being one of my all time favorites, I’m still not sure I fully cracked the code.

An Australian production, Predestination follows a temporal agent name (played by Ethan Hawke) who has spent most of his career tracking the infamous flitter bomber. Given one final clue, he shifts one last time in an attempt to discover the criminal before he can set off a bomb in New York City and take out 11,000 civilians. The key to the case might be Jane/John Doe, a mysterious bar patron with a story to tell. I’m not ruining anything here, it’s fairly clear in the first 2 minutes that John used to be Jane. Hawke offers John the chance to go back in time and face the person responsible for all his pain. Would he kill him, if given the chance?

Predestination really is a fantastic mystery, with great production design and a well-crafted plot. The writer/directors Michael and Peter Spierig are quick to credit their inspiration, a Robert a. Heinlan short story entitled “All You Zombies”- but that story is 6 pages, so a majority of it is their own invention. What they have captured is that classic sci-fi tone of the sixties and seventies, most of the fantasy of this piece takes place in your brain.

Hawke gives a great performance but the brightest star is Sarah Snook who plays Jane/John Doe, an orphan that really goes through one disappointment after another, and who finds herself out-of-place in her world. Michael Spierig calls the film “essentially like five or six films – an action film, a detective movie… and then it turns into an intimate drama about somebody telling their life story to a bartender.” It’s because of the that layering of genres the film never fails to draw in its viewer, and Snook is the one who has to do it.

“When it came to the initial casting of [Snook’s role] we went back and forth repeatedly: should it be two parts,” Spierig remembers, “Should the two roles be played by two actors of two different genders? What we thought was the most interesting choice was if we could find one actor who could play both parts, and that was in some ways a frightening prospect: what if you don’t pull it off? The whole movie falls apart.’

Snook is a real find for the film, and it is her singular presence that draws us, and Ethan Hawke’s character in. This is a movie about love. Not a love story, but but about the absence of love. There is nothing more alone than being lost in (or out) of time, out-of-step with everyone around you.


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