There’s something special about going into a film completely cold. With such a strong presence on the Internet due to social media, you’ll find it quite hard to walk into any movie nowadays without having seen a trailer or read some sort of review first. Such movie marketing has removed the ability to be truly surprised and most of the time ends up spoiling certain elements of films. How many trailers for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” were released, and how much of that film was not shown in said trailers? Therefore, when the opportunity arose to see a film that I had not seen any promotional for, called “Predestination,” I found myself truly excited to see what would become of my experience, and I can surely say I am very happy I did.
Based on the short story, “-All You Zombies-” by Robert Heinlein, “Predestination” stars Ethan Hawke as a temporal agent sent on a series of time-travel missions with the purpose of preventing the crimes of future killers. On his final mission, disguised as a bartender, the agent strikes up a conversation with a local named John (Sarah Snook), better known as The Unmarried Mother, and discovers the man’s backstory could be the key to finally catching the killer that has eluded him for years.
“Predestination,” much like 2012’s “Looper,” is a unique time-travel film in that the science and practicality of time-travel are background to the human story being told. Like other time-travel films of the past, crossing timelines and inexplicable scientific jargon are heavily present, with each passing scene presenting a new puzzle piece for the audience to use in their quest to solve the overarching ‘whodunit’ story. However, the film, at its core, is emotionally resonant, dealing with the concept of fate and the harrowing effects of obsession, both in Hawke’s character as he gets swept up in trying to find this terrorist who has eluded him for years, and Snook’s character, who’s encounter with this bartender gives her the opportunity to right the past wrongs done to her. A major element of the film takes place at a bar, in which John tells Hawke’s character the story of her life. Both twisted and hauntingly beautiful, the tale gives the audience a clear indication of the emotional resonance of this story; strip the science fiction and all of the technical jargon out of the film and what’s left is a heartbreaking tale of two individuals both struggling to move on and accept that some things that happen are completely out of our control.
With a film so heavily rooted in emotional captivation, the performances certainly make or break the effectiveness of each scene; luckily directors Michael and Peter Spierig (“Daybreakers”) do a fantastic job pulling captivating performances from the two leads. Ethan Hawke is just as fantastic as one would expect, giving the audience a multi-layered character that’s hiding an impatience and desperation underneath a charming exterior. As the story unravels, we see the true damage behind Hawke’s character: A man clinging onto the thought of catching this criminal at all costs; in his obsession he falters, makes mistakes, and alienates himself from John because it’s what is asked of him. However, it is Sarah Snook who truly steals the film, delivering a sensational performance throughout. Conveying such a backstory with emotional heaviness and a slight touch of sorrow, The Unmarried Mother’s hardened exterior slowly begins to melt as Snook gives us just enough humanity to truly invest. Sitting across from one another, both Hawke and Snook have unbelievable chemistry, bouncing off each other as they slowly begin to reveal to each other more than what’s projected at first glance.
“Predestination” is a true treat for science fiction fans, filled with wonderful performances and an emotional center that elevates the film above being generic. Smartly written and wonderfully paced, this time travel adventure provides thrills and a true cerebral challenge for those looking to piece it together early on. Sarah Snook gives a career-making performance as The Unmarried Mother and Ethan Hawke shines as the unnamed temporal agent. This is not a film for time-travel fans to miss.