Movie Review: “Predestination” – A Familiar Feeling

Written by Spencer Sterritt November 30, 2014

Predestination, time travel, Ethan Hawke, paradox

Paradoxes are tricky. The layers of storytelling involved can completely overwhelm or undo a story. “Predestination,” adapted from the Robert A. Heinlein short story “—All You Zombies–” engages with the paradox problem instead of worrying about it. Unfortunately you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen this before.

“Predestination” stars Ethan Hawke (continuing his late career sci-fi renaissance) as a Temporal Agent, a very special agent who is tasked with travelling back in time and stopping terrorist attacks before they occur. He’s ostensibly the star, but much of the movie concerns itself with a story being told to him. Relative newcomer Sarah Snook plays the story teller, an intersex person¬†with a crazy-ass story about the transformation from Jane¬†to John. Their stories eventually intertwine, and even though time-travel and gender-bending and some face-swapping make for an interesting combination, the ending can be sussed out long before the final reveal.

“Time. It catches up with us all.”

Adapted by the Spierig brothers, who were responsible for the divisive “Daybreakers,” it’s very obvious that “Predestination” has been expanded from a short story. John’s story, while not necessarily padded out, seems better suited for a short story where details can be collapsed and intertwined with one another to create a tight and suspenseful story. The story doesn’t translate visually, and John’s story takes up way too much time. Ethan Hawke’s a friggin’ time cop! That should be the main story.

Ethan Hawke, Predestination, time travel, paradox

He’s also got a bitchin’ rad mustache.

Ethan Hawke really does get short-shrift in “Predestination,” even though his face is all over the poster and the trailer. So much of the movie is spent on John’s story that we never manage to get into the Temporal Agent’s head. Ethan sells the Hell out of the role, as he always does, but several key emotional pieces are missing from the movie. His superior, a man named Mr. Robertson (Noah Taylor), who may or may not be the Temporal Agent from the future, often mentions how time travel can cause psychosis and mood swings, but we never see any of that.

“I don’t even remember what I look like. I wear memories.”

Time travel stories are by their nature more cerebral than emotional, given the intricacies of time and also how much scrutiny gets placed on them. Any time travel story, whether good or bad, lends itself to more analysis than a regular sci-fi tale. “Predestination” buckles under this weight. From the title alone you can suss out that the plot will involve the paradox of someone from the future making their past possible. “Predestination” runs whole-heartedly with this idea, once it gets around to the time-travel part of the story. It’s pleasant to see a movie deal with the complications of time-travel rather than tiptoe around them, but it creates an incredibly shaky foundation for the movie. “Predestination” works in the moment, but once you start thinking about it the whole story falls apart.

Predestination, Sarah Snook, time travel

If you’re looking for a nifty little sci-fi flick, something intriguing but not too taxing, look no further than “Predestination.” That might sound like a slight, but it’s not meant to be. This isn’t a grand sci-fi epic, or a hard science mindbender, but it’s enjoyable and goes in some strange and unexpected directions. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, Ethan Hawke rocks a bitching mustache.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Predestination, Ethan Hawke, Time travel, paradox

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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