The Spierig Brothers' Predestination will take gasoline and gun powder to the cobwebs of your mind. The paradoxical concept of you being locked into a preconceived design is turned in on itself ad infinitum. A time travelling secret agent (Ethan Hawke) is hot on the heels of a lone terrorist bomber that continues to elude him throughout time. During his stint undercover he meets a writer (Sarah Snook) who claims to have the strangest tale he’ll ever hear.
The Spierig brothers construct a world where time travel exists and the limitations of the technology allow a secret bureau of the government to travel 50 years into the past or the future. It's a vintage pre-Crime era; it dresses like Vertigo but shares the sci-fi tropes of Looper and Minority Report. Using an individual time travelling device, shaped like a violin case, users are transported with the intuition that you’ll need an inconspicuous area to avoid 'time natives' freaking out after their sudden appearance. There’s something so great about the practical affects for this version of time travel, you essentially pop in and out of your nominated time period, displacing the matter at your departure and arrival point in a sudden vacuum of air. They are just as effective as the big budget, 88 miles an hour counterparts, but maintain the subtlety of espionage. While there’s a beautifully styled mythology they keep a tight focus on the thread of our nameless agent and the chance encounter that leads us into this time travelling rabbit hole.
The Spierig Brothers give you hints at our investigation before getting you dragged into this interaction with Snook and Hawke. The bar-keep and bar-fly dialogue pauses the inferred lightning pace and explosive stakes of time hopping terror. You’ll find yourself digging for clues throughout to see why our agent is so interested in this subject, apart from the obvious. Within this mathematical problem of a script the Spierig brothers tackle gender struggle throughout time. From the arcane 50s, the illuminated 60s and strangely out of time utopic incarnations of other past decades, a trans-gender character that discovers that she has dual organs and is being forced to make a choice. At some point when you're watching particularly dense time travel texts, especially those that involve overlapping threads of time, your mind unwittingly tries to bend the refractions of space time into a perfectly linear and comfortable. Predestination doesn't become more comprehensible as it travels along, it discomposes. With each new illuminating turn you find yourself exponentially outwitted.
Ethan Hawke is a surprise packet as our mystery agent, orchestrating the events for this shadowy intelligence agency throughout time. It's a performing slow burn that from the outset feels as if he's dialling it in. He's in dogged pursuit of serial bomber that's able to remain one step ahead of time travelling agency; as you get deeper and deeper with the character, the more and more impressive and focused he becomes. Sarah Snook's performance as Jane is the best female performance that I've seen this year and possibly one of the most staggering transformative performances that I've ever seen. Just as Cate Blanchett seems to have ascended into Meryl Streep territory, Snook seems to have secured pole position in her succession playing a woman who transitions into a man. She's sweet as she is curt, as fierce as she is frail and devastating. The confronting gender transformation for its most fleeting moments packs an amazing wallop.
Predestination defiantly confounds and tantalises. It exudes that cult aura in one sitting.
[rating=4] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Written by: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig (based on the short story "All You Zombies" by Robert Heinlein)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor