FILM REVIEW: Predestination

Predestination (Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig, 2014)

Love these posters
Love these posters

Oh look, ANOTHER great Australian film. And for those who can’t hack the local stuff, you can be rest assured that its local origins are barely recognisable. Starring Ethan Hawke and set in New York, you could easily assume it to be an American work – and indeed, it is based on American Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies. But just know this: the film adaptation IS Australian, and it IS awesome.

Sarah Snook
Sarah Snook

Predestination actually has nothing to do with zombies, but it goes one better and deals with the mind-bending concept of time travel. Ethan Hawke plays a ‘temporal agent’ who goes back in time to prevent crime. While bartending he meets a down-and-out man (Sarah Snook) who tells him the story of his life, starting from when he was a little girl, prior to his sex change. This story takes some time, but it’s worth it for the pay-off.

Sarah Snook again
Sarah Snook again

While time travel films are hard to do well, and often easy to poke fun at because of the massive plot holes or ludicrous explanations on offer, there are some exceptions. Predestination succeeds by weaving a tightly constructed narrative with considerable backstory. It has an unusual structure – the set-up seemed to take up about two thirds of the film which mostly consists of the two main characters talking in a bar, with flashbacks. I was worried that there wouldn’t be time for anything cool, but in taking their time with the set-up, the pay-off was able to be quick while still making sense. But not quite. Because it was a total mind flip, to speak euphemistically. We know it’s leading up to something and I half-guessed it, but I still managed to be shocked. In hindsight, it seems possibly a bit too obvious and some viewers will probably see it coming, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Ethan 'dude' Hawke
Ethan ‘dude’ Hawke

Sarah Snook is insanely good here playing both genders. It was difficult to believe it was her in the scenes in which she’s a man, and she deserves big recognition for this role. Ethan Hawke rocks it once again, and Noah “I’m in everything” Taylor nails it as the mysterious Mr Robertson. Other recognisable Aussies are spotted in bit roles here and there, serving as a reminder of its local production.

Noah Taylor
Noah Taylor

Australian science-fiction films don’t come around too often (although having said that, another time travel film – The Infinite Man – opens this month) so you should be all over this like a rash. Just don’t think about the storyline too hard afterwards, or you might give yourself an aneurysm.

4 stars

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