Movie Review

Film Review: PREDESTINATION (2014): A Dance in Time, Space, & Mind

Ethan Hawke Predestination

Predestination (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig, and starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor, Elise Jansen, Freya Stafford, Cate Wolfe, Alicia Pavlis, Alexis Fernandez, and Christopher Kirby.

Building on their success with Daybreakers and Undead, Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig make the leap into a time-travel thriller. When I read the plot for this film I was curious how the Spierig brothers were going to put their spin on this story we have seen many times before. Keep in mind they are in some pretty heavy company. Inception, Looper, and the classic Somewhere in Time, all received high marks when these films came out. I have always been one to believe if you have to make this kind of film…own it!

Ethan Hawke plays The Bartender and a temporal agent, whose mission is to prevent a major attack by The Fizzle Bomber. This lunatic, if successful will kill 10,000 people by blowing up a sizable area of New York. As we learn very quickly, Temporal Agents are time travelers given the task of stopping an event before it happens. I know, sounds a lot like Minority Report. This is actually where the similarity ends. His boss Mr. Robertson, played by Noah Taylor, gives this complicated mission to Hawke. Given the size of this task I was surprised to see there were no real details grounding the company they work for. Other films that did well with this kind of material, took the time to ground us and explain how the process and the company works. Predestination takes a different road. Armed with two pistols and a violin case  (concealing the device that grants time travel), Hawke hops back and forth across decades. His narration becomes a bit cumbersome in parts but he sounds legitimate and sells it to us at a slow pace. The look of this film is fantastic.

The real power to this film is actress Sarah Snook. She does an outstanding job playing the role of John Doe, born intersex who has a child as a woman, then after a surgery chooses to live his life as a man. Yes, I was confused too. While Hawke is undercover as a bartender, the drifter John rolls in and this is where the majority of the film takes place. With the use of clever flashbacks to set the mode, John tells the bartender his dark story. While John is spinning his tragic tale, I couldn’t help but think how some of the elements could have been edited out to make the film move at a better pace. It begins to feel like this story goes on forever. What keeps it alive is Snook’s performance. The expressions and tone that she sets really make her character interesting. Even her dialogue while being John Doe smacks with charged invective. She takes over the film from here.

Both Hawke and Snook’s characters are not exactly who or what they appear to be. The back and forth and twists lead us on a path to where the connection to the bomber becomes clear. Getting there is a hard fought dance but the acting and look of the film make it compelling. The lead up to the final scenes is accompanied by a fantastic music score by Peter Spierig. These brothers are very talented and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The question is does the film succeed in it’s quest to get us to suspend our imagination long enough to get to the end? To answer this you may have to watch the film a second time because of all the subtleties that are woven in. The final scene offers a strong payoff but can be confusing if you miss some details along the way.

The pros. I found myself really enjoying this film till the long John Doe back-story. It was a mental workout but the acting and look of the film was solid. Unlike the other films like this, the Spierig brothers have created some abstract characters that are damaged just enough to be interesting and likeable. This is a fun ride.

The con. The overall story takes a long time to arrive home. More time should have been spent grounding the company Hawke’s character works for. It would have helped pull us in smoother. Snook’s performance is strong but the long back-story saps your energy and when the payoff arrives…it loses steam and feels like it’s wrapped up too quickly.

Rating: 6/10

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About the author

Brian Fire

Brian is a screenwriter and visual fx Artist who loves science fiction, drama and follows many TV shows. He is a versatile writer who is published and has written copy for: CompUsa, The California State Lottery and Princess Cruise lines. Every year he attends The Sundance Film Festival and the San Diego Comic Con filling up on his other passions…indie films, comic books and video games.

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