Time travel movies can very problematic. You can run into issues with plot holes, unexplained occurrences, wouldn’t this happen, headaches, and arguments. Eventually you have to let the movie have its day and forgo the logic gaps. Recently there have been several films that have used time travel effectively. From big blockbusters to smaller films, time travel is always an interesting plot device. Now here in the new year we have yet another film tackling time travel, but in a much different way. “Predestination” is an interesting, thoughtful Sci-Fi adventure that relies more heavily on careful storytelling than large scale action set piece. “Predestination” can be disorienting at times, and not always structured in a cohesive manner, however the time traveling story’s grace is more than enough to make up for it.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot at all, it’s almost nearly impossible to review this movie without spoiling it. The plot basically requires you to know as little about it as possible, (something many films don’t do anymore). All I’ll say about the plot is “Predestination” follows the life of one temporal agent on his quest through time to stop the fizzle bomber from killing millions in New York.
The trailers don’t reveal much about the film at all and goes out of its way to avoid telling exactly what the movie is actually about. In the age of “3 trailers plus” per film it’s rare to go in with such secrecy; perhaps since this was a smaller movie it could get away with it. Towards the beginning I had no idea where they were going with the movie, and that’s where we run into “Predestination’s” problematic woes.
Towards the beginning, the film is very foggy on details and how the laws of time travel operate. The script also vaguely defines whose story this is. From the poster, trailer, and opening, this looks like this should be Ethan Hawke’s film. Yet very quickly it diverts to Sarah Snook’s character and steals the limelight. Once the film continues you begin to understand why the beginning is like this and most of the disorienting feelings begin to fade. Still even from a storytelling point of view, you don’t want to leave your audience too confused otherwise they can turn against you. I know at one point within the first 30 minutes I was began to think, “what the hell is this?” You’re not confused because you’re quote on quote dumb but instead because you feel disoriented. I do believe the screenwriters could have restructured the beginning and still garnered the same effect that the rest of the movie would have had had the beginning stayed the same.
I don’t want to make this out to be a poor film. More simply I felt like addressing my initial gripes with the film. The remaining 3/4 of the movie almost make up the stumbled beginning entirely. The plot begins to get deeper, smarter, and seems more confident in what it is. The story carries the entire film. Although there is an action scene or two, this is not an action movie. This is isn’t the next “Terminator” or even “Looper”. The narrative instead wants to explore thought provoking themes, like manifest destiny and (yes) paradox. If your head isn’t hurting by the end of the film, then you’re a lot smarter than I am because there is a lot of paradox to shuffle through. Then it happens though, the ending.
The ending features a twist I’m willing to bet most won’t see coming. Some plot angles you may be able to figure out as you begin to see which direction the story is heading yet, the ending throws a curveball at you, the likes of which you won’t be prepared for. So many films aim to do what this film is doing; that much desired “gotcha moment”. Some desire it so much that it’s willing to throw anything at you, even if it doesn’t make sense with the rest of the plot established. “Predestination’s” ending essentially connects the last dot on your connect the dot activity page. Once that line is connected and you step back and look at it you go, “oh, so that’s what it is”. The same is true for “Predestination”. Under the careful direction of co-directors, Michael and Peter Spierig, the ending is able to achieve that realization and greater understanding of what the picture is once you hit the film’s ending.
That team of directors was able to cast two incredibly talented actors, Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. There are a few other smaller cast members but these are the main two. Hawke does a fine job in the film; giving the performance we’ve all come to expect from Hawke. Yet the scene stealer was Sarah Snook. Snook plays “The Unmarried Mother” and absolutely kills it here. She shows so much range and depth, and an acting talent beyond her years. The character has so many different sides and layers, and Snook plays each one like fiddle. Had more people seen this movie, I would say this is a breakout performance for her. I can’t believe this is the same girl that’s in that horrendous “Jessabelle” horror film. Snook is now on my radar and is one to watch for in the coming years.
“Predestination” may have lacked a confident and coherent beginning but the rest of the movie mostly makes up for that. This is a small, low key, but thought provoking and engaging time travel adventure. It doesn’t live up to more recent time traveling films like “Looper” but quietly this film makes it’s impact.