TAD 2014: Predestination

After Dark - Predestination 2

Time travel tales tend to have very particular rules: you must avoid running into your past self, limit unnecessary contact with others, and do not take anything back with you to the present. Often even the smallest of actions could have severe ramifications for the future. Based on the 1960 short story All You Zombies by Robert A Heinlein, Predestination turns all those preconceived notions of time travel on its ear.

Ethan Hawke plays a Temporal Agent who is approaching retirement. His finale mission offers him one last shot at catching the criminal nicknamed the Fizzle Bomber who terrorized New York City in the late 60s and early 70s. Despite numerous attempts, the time traveling agent has failed to stop the elusive bomer’s March 1975 blast that leveled a city block killing over 10,000 people. For his last attempt, the agent assumes the identity of a local bartender in 1970 in hopes of gathering information on the bomber.

At the bar he meets a patron (Sarah Snook) who writes popular stories for women under the alias The Unmarried Mother. On a bet for a bottle of alcohol, The Unmarried Mother believes she can tell the agent the most unbelievable story he has ever heard. Recounting a tale of how a male writer came to know so much about the female condition, the patron is unaware that the story may hold the key to stopping the Fizzle Bomber once and for all.

Directors Michael and Peter Spierig construct a knotted thriller that bounces around time periods with the fury a tetherball fresh off its string. The snake eating its own tail loop of a narrative is full of twists and turns that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The Spierig Brothers achieve this by expanding on the source material. For example, they added of the character Mr. Robertson (Noah Taylor), an agency recruiter who has been keeping tabs on the patron’s life since youth.

Fresh off both Before Midnight and Boyhood, Ethan Hawke delivers yet another solid performance as the Temporal Agent. His understated work, and grading gruff voice, help to bring both a strength and a vulnerability to the role. Sarah Snook is an absolute revelation as The Unmarried Mother. Her Jodie Foster looks play well into the role of an outsider who, despite being different from her peers, is ultimately looking for love and acceptance.

Predestination is a very intelligent and thrilling production. The film has fewer action sequences than one would expect, but shines in its dialogue, gorgeous set design and overall plot construction. The delicate dance between Hawke’s bartender and Snook’s angst ridden patron is magical stuff. A head twister in the best possible way, Predestination is a film that I highly recommend.