Predestination is one of those films where some people are absolutely going to adore it and think it’s one of the best films they’ve ever seen, while others will be left rather cold. It pretty much depends on whether twists and ideas are enough for you, or if you demand absolute logic from your movies.
Ethan Hawke pays a special kind of cop who travels through time on the trail of bad guys, attempting to stop them before major crimes are committed. He’s trying to catch the Fizzle Bomber and is aware that he won’t be able to stop an atrocity in New York City that will kill more than 10,000 people unless he catches up to the killer very soon.
Posing as a barkeeper in the 1960s he starts talking to ‘The Unmarried Mother’ (Sarah Snook), who reveals an incredible past that starts when she was left on the doorstep of an orphanage. She grew up feeling different and with a desire to go into space, but that idea was scuppered when she became pregnant and an extremely difficult birth revealed something completely unexpected.
Hawke’s cop then offers the Unmarried Mother the opportunity to go back and confront the man who abandoned her when she was pregnant and who she believes ruined her life. However things are far more complex than they at first appear.
Most time-travel movies try to hide the fact that it’s very difficult to tell a temporal tale without creating paradoxes, but Predestination goes the other way, creating a narrative that twists around and into itself, purposefully creating paradoxes within paradoxes – as it puts it, a snake eating itself forever.
It means that it has a very satisfying way of constantly linking things together through time and turning in on itself, but simultaneously creates a story that can’t have a proper beginning or an end and so on a rational level will do your head in (and it’s no good how much you think about it, there’s no way to make it fit with normal linear logic). There is a bit of a sleight of hand with the whole thing and numerous conveniences it has to employ to get it to work. Indeed some of those conveniences will be red flags for astute viewers who will immediately see where the film is heading.
That said, even if you do figure out where it’s going there’s a pleasure in seeing how it gets there. It’s a slight shame that in its desire to be mainstream entertainment it gives short shrift to the rather perverse psychological aspects of what it’s dealing with, and also presents gender as something ridiculously fungible where you can essentially just tell someone they’ll be a different gender from now on and they’ll agree. Admittedly there were some who thought about gender that way back in the 50s when these events take place (and which is also when the Robert A Henlein story the film is based on was written), but the truth isn’t quite as simple, and it’s a potentially fascinating aspect of the movie that it doesn’t fully address.
If you get even vaguely objective about it, the whole thing collapses into a morass of contradictions, paradoxes and things that don’t make any real sense or are way too convenient, but there’s still a lot of pleasure in seeing what it’s doing and how it gets to its big(gest) looping reveals. Fans of this sort of sci-fi – which is as much about finding pleasure in the ideas within it as the actual plot – will absolutely adore the movie, while more literal-minded viewers will probably start to scoff. However if you do enjoy a bit of mind-bending science fiction it’s well worth a look.
Overall Verdict: It’s a lot of fun to see how Predestination twists in and around itself to create the ultimate Grandfather paradox. The literal-minded will thinks the plot is nonsense but those who can enjoy a story for its ideas and form will enjoy it a lot.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac