Predestination marks the return of The Spierig Brothers after 2009’s solid Daybreakers. And like their skew on the vampire mythology, albeit playing on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, this time out the Spierig Brothers are giving their unique look at the time travel thriller.
Based on Robert A. Heinlein’s All You Zombies Predestination sees a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) as a kind of retro Time Cop; he travels back and forward in time preventing crimes before they happen. His latest target is The Fizzle Bomber who has killed thousands in 1975 New York. But time travel has taken its toll and for his final mission he finds himself in a bar listening to the woes of John who was Jane (both played by Sarah Snook) and how she became he and the life he wishes he could have had.
That first act synopsis might sound like a discombobulating hybrid of Back To The Future meets Boys Don’t Cry but stick with it, because once you cut through some of the preamble it all makes sense. The Spierig Brothers, religiously sticking to Heinlein’s original time frame, have conjured a wonderfully taught little mystery thriller which never feels like it’s guarding its secret but rather drip-feeding you clues to keep you guessing. By the climax you’ll want to rewind and watch it again just to make sure the trail of breadcrumbs all lead back to point A or B, or… It’s hard to know really.
And that’s the fun of the fare. Because Predestination leads you merely up the garden path before plonking a mirror down in front of you, and behind you, and having you stand there trying to catch a glimpse behind the very smart reflection its created.
Whereas most Sci-fi plumps for special effects flair Predestination prefers to focus almost solely on character. That first act, the one with all the gender changing head-scratching stuff, is essentially John/Jane’s sob story. But from thereon in it leads you increasingly into the various characters’ psyche and what they did in past lives, or times, to end up where they are now.
It works thanks to two, if not three, smartly focused performances from Hawke and Snook. Hawke’s laid-back-cool barman soon gives way to a tortured soul desperate to understand, like us, how it all ends. Snook meanwhile is dazzling in her roles of John and Jane. Upon first meeting him you’re convinced that there is something amiss with John, that he knows more than he’s letting on. But as his story unfolds, and we see Snook in her natural female guise, both performances take on a haunted tragedy. It’s the kind of performance that if given by a bigger name would have people waxing lyrical about it. The fact that by the end you’ll find yourself nodding at the obvious nature of it all is proof of Snook and Hawke’s attention-to-detail performances.
The closest thing to Looper since Looper, Predestination is like a 3D puzzle, one that you have to look at from every angle to fully know how the pieces fit together before fully grasping the predestined inevitability of it all.