Directed by the Spierig Brothers (Undead, Daybreakers) and starring Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Gattaca), Predestination is an adaption of a short story by the famed science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein called “—All You Zombies—“. The film concerns Hawke’s character, known as The Bartender, who works for a secret government agency dedicated to using time travel to stop crime before it happens. His current, and last, mission is to hunt down a terrorist known as “The Fizzle Bomber”, whose next attack will happen sometime in March of 1975 (he keeps changing the date) and result in the deaths of over 10,000 people in New York City. While posing as a bartender in order to stake out the city, he meets a man who bets him a bottle of the bar’s best whiskey that he has the best story The Bartender has ever heard.
At this point, I need to stop in order to prevent any possible spoilers. At first glance the movie sounds a bit like Minority Report, with the visual look being evocative of the Film Noir style popular when Heinlein wrote the story in the 1950s. However, the film slowly reveals itself to not only be one of the best time travel movies I’ve seen in a long time, but also a complex and fascinating examination of the issue of gender and sexual identity. The story is bizarrely radical and progressive for being written in the 1950s, and its subject matter was far ahead of its time when Heinlein conceived of it. However, it is a perfect fit for today’s world, with increasing acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism in mainstream society.
I have said before that the best science-fiction uses cutting-edge science and technology in order to tell intensely human stories, and Predestination is a perfect example of this. It is both a fascinating human story and an examination of complex philosophical concepts through the lens of advanced technology. Not only that, but Predestination is an intensely enjoyable film to watch, due to the fact that the Spierig Brothers’ brilliant screenplay manages to be both simple enough to prevent viewers from getting caught in the morass of time travel but also complex enough to keep viewers engaged and always on their toes. The acting is always great, and the subtle Film Noir visual helps to give the film a style that is rarely seen in science fiction anymore.
The only real complaint I have with the film is that it’s actually too short (at a paltry 97 minutes), and that it leaves some of its plot points unanswered. However, this just left me hungry for more. The Spierig Brothers seem to have left ample space for a sequel, and I really hope they make one. Predestination is one of the best time travel stories I’ve seen in ages, and really demonstrates the Brothers’ ample filmmaking talents. It just goes to show how great surprises can be.