Movie Review: “Predestination” Starts Off Strong But Slowly Loses Traction

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Review by James McDonald

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

I love time travel movies. If I had to pick one, it would be “Back to the Future Part II.” I loved how director Robert Zemeckis introduced Marty and Doc to the future and then brought them back to the present but because they inadvertently changed the future, they must go further back into to the past to prevent disastrous changes to their present without interfering with Marty’s first trip. I know, it sounds convoluted but watch the movie and it will all make sense. That’s the thing with these kinds of movie, while they might sound puzzling and problematic on paper, with the right director, the movie will become clear in the end. Here unfortunately, the Spierig Brothers, who also directed Ethan Hawke in the wildly entertaining “Daybreakers,” just can’t seem to make all the parts fit and with the movie’s final shot, you find yourself scratching your head in sheer frustration that a film which started off so effectively, could end so unsatisfactorily.

Ethan Hawke plays a time travel agent who works for an organization called the Temporal Bureau where he goes back in time to try and stop a terrorist blowing up a building in 1970s New York who calls himself the ‘Fizzle Bomber.’ While pretending to be a bartender, he engages in conversation with a young man, John, and after gaining the man’s trust, John proceeds to tell him an absolutely incredible story that he claims to be true. The story flashes back and we are introduced to Jane (Sarah Snook), a young woman who was abandoned by her parents and left on the doorstep of an orphanage. As she grows, she excels in everything she does and by the time she is a young woman in her early 20s, she is recruited by a company called Space Corps but after running tests on her, she is disqualified because the doctors realized that she was born intersex, with both female and male reproductive organs.

She begins night school where she meets an older man and soon after becomes pregnant but he disappears from her life and shortly after she gives birth, the baby is kidnapped from the hospital. Her doctor informs her of her condition and at his advice, she undergoes further procedures to remove her female sexual organs, irreparable after birth complications and thereby becoming a man named John. He finishes the story in the bar and the bartender reveals that he knows everything about him and offers John the opportunity to go back in time and kill the man who impregnated him when he was Jane and then abandoned her and it’s at this point in the movie, that everything becomes overly-complicated. What’s more, the majority of the film takes place in the flashback from John’s perspective when he was a teen girl evolving into that of a beautiful and intelligent young woman and all the complications and complexities of her life.

The problem I had was, by the film’s end, it couldn’t make up its mind as to what it wanted to be. It’s part time travel/part drama and regrettably, these two genres did not bond well together. I would have much rather watched a drama about Jane’s circumstances or a sci-fi time-travel thriller with a fast-paced storyline but mixing these two styles just didn’t work. Ethan Hawke is an actor who is used to playing much more complicated characters but here, he goes through the paces of a leading action man and does so admirably but Sarah Snook, who plays the aforementioned Jane (and John, in make-up), steals the show. She has a formidable tenacity to overcome whatever life throws at her and much like the Terminator, she just keeps getting back up and moving forward and her performance is the one attribute that keeps the film engaging.

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James McDonald
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