Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Violence, some Sexuality, Nudity and Language
Directed by: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Written by: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
(based on the short story ALL YOU ZOMBIES by Robert A. Heinlein)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor, Madeleine West & Christopher Kirby
The Spierig Brothers, an Australian duo of directors/writers, seem to have a knack for adding creative spins to well-worn ideas. Their debut feature came in 2003 with UNDEAD, an ode to cheesy zombie comedies that also had the good sense to throw aliens into the mix. Initial feelings were split and I can’t remember much about watching that film. Their sophomore effort came in 2010 with DAYBREAKERS, a futuristic look at a world run by blood-sucking vampires. More positive reviews peaked out of that film and I do think it’s underrated. Now, their third feature is upon us. PREDESTINATION is a dark time travel tale that’s sure to start a lot of interesting conversations. Thus far, this intelligent science-fiction piece is the best movie to come out of the Spierigs’ filmography.
An unnamed agent travels back in time to catch a terrorist known as The Fizzle Bomber. This agent’s initial attempt ends in devastating failure, so his strange superiors send him on a final mission to the 1970’s as an undercover bartender. Things should already be weird for this time-traveling crime fighter, but they get even weirder when a stranger named John starts up a conversation with the unnamed agent. John’s life story is told and time-travel is used. I can’t go into too much detail, because there are tons of twists and turns throughout the whole film. In the interest of avoiding huge and minor spoilers, I’ll just keep things vague.
On the technical side, PREDESTINATION looks incredible. The visuals are gorgeous and this is especially impressive given that this was made on a relatively small budget (ranging from 1 to 5 million depending on which source you read). The alternate futuristic/past world feels real. The film treats its science fiction elements as a mere tool in a large-scale story. This is probably the most minimalist version of time-travel that I’ve ever seen and it’s treated as a fact of life known only to a few within the context of the film.
There could easily be a misconception going into this film (especially from the trailer) that it’s action-packed, but this script relies far more on character interactions. Comparisons to MINORITY REPORT and LOOPER are valid enough, but PREDESTINATION creates its own unique world and has a slightly more dramatic story than either of those films. It definitely feels derivative, but manages to pull off the plot in a way that kept me hooked by shocking twists and turns. There were multiple points in the movie where I gasped at certain surprise revelation. The whole movie has been bouncing around in my head for a few hours now and the more I think about it, the more I like it. There is one stretch of the film that does seem slightly unfocused, but an incredible development occurs to pick things up right away. PREDESTINATION is not without the tiny plot hole or two that comes in any time-travel story with paradoxes, but these aren’t too distracting.
Ethan Hawke is convincing in his mysterious agent role and plays this odd character in a way that keeps the viewer invested in him, even when the story isn’t specifically focused on the unnamed man. Sarah Snook (the best discovery of last year’s JESSABELLE) shines in a part that surely required a lot of dedication from this young actress, but she makes her complex character believable and tragic. Noah Taylor is a welcome presence, even if he really doesn’t show up for more than a couple of exposition monologues.
I wish PREDESTINATION was receiving a nationwide theatrical release as opposed to just popping up on VOD as I can only imagine crowd reactions would be full of gasps, confused faces and sudden moments of realization. Though the script isn’t immune to plot holes that usually come in time-travel movies and feels somewhat derivative (being based on a story from the 1950’s helps its case), this film manages to add plenty of originality and imagination to stay fresh. The visuals are beautiful and it’s definitely a thinking man’s science fiction film (no huge action sequences or anything along those lines). It is most preferable to watch PREDESTINATION with a group of friends as this will likely lead to discussions afterwards about paradoxes, relationships, and the nature of the inevitable. Highly recommended!