For his final assignment, a top temporal agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. The chase turns into a unique, surprising and mind-bending exploration of love, fate, identity and time travel taboos.
Directed by: Michael Spierig
, Peter Spierig
. Starring: Ethan Hawke
, Sarah Snook
, Christopher Kirby
, Christopher Sommers
, Kuni Hashimoto
, Sara El-Yafi
, Paul Moder
, Grant Piro
, Christopher Bunworth
, Jamie Gleeson
, Christina Tan
, Dennis Coard
, Milla Simmonds
. Music by: Peter Spierig
Time travel is a tricky thing to handle in film. We can often lose track of how characters are interacting and playing with time and events prior to where they started. It can often become messy, convoluted, or all of the above. Some of the most entertaining time travel films of the past few years have seemingly lacked proper logic and reasoning and have managed to find themselves lost in the confines of their own laws and rules about the practice; Edge of Tomorrow and Looper immediately springing to mind. Often, time travel films have to disregard spectacle or entertainment in favour of its principle stipulations; convoluted descriptions and loaded exposition on meaning, purpose, dilation and contraction, paradox, etc. It can be quite tiresome if not executed with a semblance of vehemence, which is what so many sci-fi films indulging in the idea of time travel disappointingly fall victim to.
Predestination is a film which tries desperately hard to escape the confines of clichés, genericisms and predictability; it wants to surprise and enthrall you so desperately hard, that you almost want to pity the film for doing so. For the most part, it is possible to do as such; the final half of this film is highly engaging, full of some wonderful performances and paced with great energy. It also helps that the time travel component of this film, one which explores the meaning behind destiny and whether or not it exists, is executed very well and with logic at the forefront (or as much logic and reasoning as a time travel film is entitled to). Directorsscreenwriters Peter and Michael Spierig work hard to add peril and unpredictability to the final half of the film, and for the most part, achieve such.
And yet, it's immensely disappointing to see that the other half of the film is utterly painful to sit through. The film sets up a number of key plots and stories during its initial stages with expository dialogue from Sarah Snook, none of it particularly captivating. The film is stilted for a good portion of its running time, refusing to speed up and show instead of just telling, as it does so constantly. Flash backs litter the film, providing labored and boring back story to characters who aren't overtly interesting to begin with. One almost feels shame in feeling distaste for this picture though, as it so obviously has heart and passion behind it, waiting to get out. You can clearly see the admirable ambition that the Spierig brothers most obviously possess. They have a vivid imagination, and they're certainly having fun with building wild back stories for their characters. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate as fun for us, the viewer, as everything feels like narration. It isn't involving in the slightest; the viewer feels a spectator, unengaged in all of the 'action' occurring on screen. It's infuriating!
Fortunately, the film manages to get itself back on track at the halfway mark, finally reaching the segment of the film which we've all been anxiously and desperately waiting to see; time travel. The film's exposition finally, at long last delivers what it has been building and hyping up for the past 45 minutes. The characters zip around all through time, exploring their lives (specifically Sarah Snook's character's life) and attempt to change their destinies; the key thematic concept behind the film. Is it possible to change the past? Are paradoxes not only feasible in the conceptual sense, but also feasible in the practical sense? Or will time always correct itself; are we on a set path all our lives? Perhaps time travel is part of the equation; maybe these characters were always meant to time travel? The film asks and answers these questions definitively by the end of its relatively short running time, and interestingly enough, these final 45 minutes manage to undo a good portion of the pain endured throughout the first half of the picture. The film frantically tries to recuperate a semblance of peril as it approaches its end, and I believe it accomplishes such properly. The conclusions and resolutions to each individual character are satisfying and foreshadowed properly, the film making the slow burn of exposition at the beginning somewhat worth it as the meaning behind individual events begin to waver into context. It's ultimately a very fulfilling film.
Predestination asks and answers questions we've seen and heard before countless times. It doesn't do much that is overtly new. Its final twist will be spotted by numerous individuals, and some of the foreshadowing is sloppily done. Yet still, this is a competent piece of entertainment from two relatively under-appreciated filmmakers. It has decent performances from its two leads, and its pace, whilst uneven, eventually ignites to a blissful level. This film, ultimately, is worthy of a positive rating.
One must be warned though; Predestination places its priorities on its time travel component, disregarding many of the necessities that should populate any good film. So, unfortunately, it still lacks a transcendent quality that I desire from a time travel film. Perhaps I shall encounter it one day; a film where good pacing, strong characters and an enthralling story are not sacrificed for intelligence and exposition to explain the laws and confines of the time travel element. Still, at the very least, it answered a few of my favourite questions about time itself.
Can we change time, or are we given coordinates at the start of our life; is there another version of us in another parallel universe, thinking, talking, feeling, walking the exact same as us? Are we destined to repeat his mistakes and accomplishments? Can we pave our own path, or is time a singular road; a path which contains barriers to keep us from drifting outside of the regulated zones?
Thank you Predestination, for the little but appreciated contribution you've given to my philosophy on time itself.
Review by Callum Hofler from the Internet Movie Database.