Predestination (15) Home Ents Review

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Dir. Michael Spierig/Peter Spierig, Australia, 2014, 93 mins

Cast:  Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor

Adapted from a 1958 short story by Robert Heinlein, this mind bending time travel tale is a fascinating series of paradoxes or indeed Russian dolls buried inside each other, which could well do your head in.  As Hawke himself has described it, it is a snake eating its own tail.

Hawke is an actor who makes interesting and unusual choices – he also starred in Andrew Niccol’s sci fi debut Gattaca.  Here he plays a time travelling special agent from a secret government department set up to prevent major disasters before they happen.  Hawke’s mission is to find and disable a terrorist, known as the “Fizzle Bomber”, who is due to blow up a large part of New York in 1975.  While working undercover as a barman in 1970, a young man, known only as The Unmarried Mother, being the pen name under which he writes a column for a True Confessions magazine, tells The Barman the story of his life.  And a riveting tale it is, involving his early years as a female, the child she gives birth to fathered by the lover who abandoned her and the circumstances which brought about her gender change.

Apart from one bizarre section of the story, involving the young woman’s recruitment in the sixties as a courtesan to service the astronauts of the space programme, the elements of this tale are then returned to, when The Barman recruits the young man to the agency and they travel together and separately through time, revealing the unexpected and startling links between them and their ultimate joint “predestination” in a frequently startling way.

The film is totally gripping, intriguing and full of surprises as it moves at an almost dizzying lick, darting around in the twentieth century from the 40s to the eighties via The Barman’s almost comically simple but convincing time travel device housed in a violin case.  It also incidentally breaks a traditional travel tale rule – that you must never meet yourself in the past – without destroying the fabric of time in the process.

Hawke develops his character’s unusual time line interestingly, as The Barman’s personality starts to gradually crack under the strain and there’s a quietly authoritative performance from Taylor as his controller.  One of the most exciting elements of the film though is internationally unknown Australian actress Snook as The Unmarried Mother/Jane.  Looking not unlike the young Leonardo DiCaprio in her male persona, she gives a remarkable performance in both elements of the role in what should be a springboard for an international career.

The Spierig brothers, who are twins, have made two previous films, one of which, the vampire movie, Daybreakers, also starred Hawke but they haven’t as yet made a huge impact on the international screen.  While this modestly budgeted film will probably develop cult status rather than bring in big bucks, the brothers have the potential to emulate the achievements of another siblings duo, the Wachowskis.

Predestination received a brief theatrical release earlier this year but one of the pluses of watching it on DVD is that you can spool back and try to unravel the complexities of the plot. To quote Hawke again on the film:   ‘Anyone who tells you they know what Predestination is about is lying.’  But I’m sure you’ll have a theory.

Review by Carol Allen

Predestination is out on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on 06 April.   Buy from Amazon

Carol Allen

Author: Carol Allen

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