Is fate predestined? Must we live out the roles given to us? These questions are explored in the film Predestination. As we prepare for Terminator Genisys later this week, I’d recommend adding this to your list of films to watch beforehand.
Story (4/5) – The story was written by Michael and Peter Spierig, based on the short story “’—All You Zombies—’” by Robert A. Heinlein. Like the source material, the story involved a series of jumps through time. A large portion of the middle story recalls the life of a character called the Unmarried Mother. Some viewers may find this flashback out-of-place at first. It does prove to be an important part of the story though.
The Unmarried Mother (now a male) was original born a female named Jane and was left at an orphanage. Growing up, Jane had dreamed about going into space. She was given an opportunity to do so, but as a teenager, Jane was seduced and abandoned by an older man “that ruined [her] life”. She became pregnant by this mysterious man, and during delivery, her doctors discovered that she was intersexed (have both male and female sex organs inside). Because of complications during the birthing, the doctors gave Jane gender reassignment and she became John. John went on to explain that he was forced to give up his goal of space travel, and that he eventually became a writer of confession stories (which gave him his unusual name).
John had been telling this life story to a character called The Barkeep, who was actually a time agent sent back to recruit John. The Barkeep suggested to the Unmarried Mother that he could put John in front of the man that supposed ruined his life. After John agreed to let this happen, the events of the story began to unfold quickly.
Characters (4/5) – The two main characters in this film were The Barkeep (Ethan Hawke) and the Unmarried Mother (Sara Snook). The Barkeep is a compelling character, played wonderfully by Hawke. He is a decorated time agent, whose mission in this film is to ultimately recruit John into the agency and to set things in motion to ensure that history follows its predestined course.
Unfortunately, the Barkeep is obsessed with capturing the Fizzle Bomber and starts making unapproved time jumps, which could be dangerous for him. But as stated beforehand, this story is about fate. So was he always supposed to have done that anyways?
Like the Barkeep, the Unmarried Mother is another compelling role. Snook played it fantastically, and showed us both the masculine and feminine sides of that character. I don’t want to give too much away, but the Unmarried Mother was certainly explored and transformed in a way that most movies are unable to do.
Also noteworthy of mention is Noah Taylor as the supervisor of the time bureau. I first saw Taylor in the series Powers and the movie Edge of Tomorrow. I’m really liking his performances more and more, and was really glad he appeared in this film.
Direction (3/5) – Predestination was directed by the Spierig Brothers. With all the plot twists, the interconnectivity of story elements, and paradoxical moments in this film, audiences could have easily found themselves confused or frustrated. The Spierigs, however, managed to keep the story focused and very character driven.
Execution (3/5) – This movie was not flashy like other time travelling movies. There was no big ball of electricity that fired off or fancy floating car when people traveled through time. Objects simply got pushed out of the away during their arrival.
The makeup effects instead were the real highlight of this film. From the burning of the time agent early in the film to the makeup used to turn Snook into John, I was quite happy with what I saw.
Entertainment (4/5) – I enjoyed the movie a lot. It stayed close to the source material, and yet added new elements which strengthened the story and characters. I liked the various references to Heinlein throughout the film as well (some obvious and others not so obvious). I also liked the many subtle clues and hints that the film makers peppered throughout the story, foreshadowing the main reveal. Some of you may quickly figure out what’s happening, but I don’t think it will ruin the experience for you.
Overall – I give Predestination 3.6 bowties out of 5. I definitely feel that this movie is worth multiple viewings, if just to catch all the references you may have missed the first time through.