MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action Thriller/ Stars: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor, Madeleine West, Christopher Kirby, Freya Stafford, Jim Knobeloch, Christopher Stollery, Tyler Coppin, Rob Jenkins, Ben Prendergast/ Runtime: 97 minutes
I think it is safe to say dear reader that noted writer in the realm of literature known as sci-fi Science Robert Heinlein is one whose work is seemingly adored by the world of movie magic. A fact that seems apparent when you find out that the printed work this man has conjured up for readers to enjoy is the backbone for several unique entries in the pantheon of cinema over time with perhaps the most recognizable being a film from 1997 known as Starship Troopers. A film, incidentally, which deals with the tale of mankind’s quite bloody conflicts with a race of dastardly bugs. Indeed whilst that film is one that is truly wild and crazy in the best way possible, it’s the details that aren’t that visible that truly define the film and are what help morph it from a simply bloody good popcorn film to a fairly well regarded film (albeit one that doesn’t always follow the source material). To that end, the film I am reviewing for you today known as Predestination is one that serves as an adaptation of a short story by this unique author known as All You Zombies, and suffice it to say manages to serve as an iconic mind-bender in all the best ways possible. More than that though, this is a film which manages to function as quite the reverse of a film like Starship Troopers due to how it minimizes entertaining an audience in exchange for presenting them with a film that is a lot darker and a whole lot more complex as the movie unfolds before them. Yet at the heart of the film, even if that heart is also incidentally the body of the film as well, is a narrative that will push you as a movie goer to dig a lot deeper than you most likely have ever had to dig before for a movie so that way you can truly appreciate the lunacy and gorgeousness of not only the main points of the narrative, but also the significantly more cherished and yes a whole lot darker parts to the overall narrative which are the building blocks of this film’s unnerving, quite uncomfortable yet also ingeniously simplistic foundation that when revealed will not only leave you stunned, but also really challenge how you as an individual perceive not only time, but yourself as well.
The plot is as follows: Predestination starts its story by introducing us to a guy whose name doesn’t really matter all that much for the purposes of this review walking into a bar….because it happens to be his place of employment. (Hats off to you though if you were under the impression that I was about to make some kind of joke). Yet while our seemingly mild mannered bartender is both friendly enough and more than skilled at the bartending arts of drink dispensing and chitchatting with the customers who choose to sit in front of him and make a selection, we soon learn that this bartender is much more than he seems. In fact, this man is an undercover agent who, despite being horrifically burnt (literally) whilst on assignment, is now (thanks to the power of skin grafts and movie magic) healed back up, except for his vocal cords, and headed back to work. For this assignment however, we see that he has been tasked to go back in time and thwart at any and all cost a homicidal maniac of a terrorist who is known by the press simply as “The Fizzle Bomber.” Yet as astonishing as that may be, things soon get even wilder with the arrival of a customer who, like our intrepid hero, is another enigma of a person who proceeds to regale for our bartending secret agent a long, detailed, and astonishing narrative about a life unlike any he has been told about before….or maybe just maybe it’s one that seems more familiar than our hero chooses to admit. Thus what we see occur from there as both our bartending agent hunts down his prey and his customer’s astonishing past is revealed is no more and no less than a story of incredulous yet in the world of the film frighteningly realistic possibilities…..
Now as a slice of cinematic pie, I think it is safe to say that Predestination is such a truly intriguing film comprised of complicated, fully inserted, and where each and every one of them is significant plot details that to give you such an immersive discussion in a review of this format would not do much good to either the film or to those who haven’t yet gotten the chance to watch this film. Be that as it may be, what I can honestly tell you is that this is a film which is a lot of different things all rolled into one including, but not limited to, curious, brilliant, visceral, intelligent, riveting, pitch-black at points, and just all out odd. Astonishingly though is the fact that each of the items listed previously are all essential to fully comprehending the narrative, cherishing just what it is trying to do, and also sifting through all the details upon the film’s conclusion. Make no mistake dear reader: this film is an oddly brilliant film that is befuddling at some moments, a puzzler in others, a task to watch, and ultimately gorgeously simplistic whilst also rivetingly complicated all in one film. Not to mention, but this is also a film that functions as, unless something else comes along to take the title, the de facto poster child for the subgenre of film dealing with both time travel and time paradoxes. An honor the film accomplishes, I might add, due to how the film takes you back to places you didn’t think possible, but also because the times and events don’t matter and instead its all about those who are involved in them. Indeed it really doesn’t matter where this film chooses to take you because at the end of the day what is truly important here is the head-scratching events that occur in the different pockets of time we go to within the film and which will most likely be seen as novel and also come back around to each other in such a comprehensive manner that I don’t think I have ever seen anyone take the idea of a time paradox as far as this film has managed to accomplish.
To that end, it should be noted that this film truly is one that has managed to successfully partner up both the potent and stylized. I say this because when looking past the unnerving main storyline, the film is not exactly the slickest film production known to man, but it is to a fair degree smooth in terms of production and fairly flawless in what it delivers audiences as it manages to locate a good tempo while the opening of a world and then revealing all the layers buried under it that whilst constructed off the same narrative also add new wrinkles to it as the film goes on. Heck a lot of the joy in this film is no less than trying to be one step ahead instead of comprehending it though there are a fair amount of other details to cherish beyond the puzzles the film firmly requests that you try to solve. I mean the production overall is of a remarkably well-done quality with some truly neat visual effects work at play that either points toward what could be coming around the bend or strengthening the details that have been uncovered as well as those still waiting to be. Thus it would seem like this is one film that is always working in nearly every way possible on behalf of itself to operate as well as it knows it possibly could and it does a really wonderful job at that and then some. As for in front of the camera, it should be noted that the performances in this are simply top of the line and one of the true elements necessary to making this film, given its story, work as well as it does. Indeed the work that perennial screen favorite, of mine, at least Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook in this is truly no less than downright majestic. Indeed this pair of truly talented thespians manages to assertively and with heart sell both the physical and pathos necessary for their characters and to get you hooked on the truly incredible story of which they are key parts of. Suffice it to say that both Snook and Hawke therefore do an incredible job at making their characters as three-dimensional as possible since they both are able to comprehend and thereafter carry out the needed range to make that possible and then continue to expand their characters from there as the movie heads towards its truly riveting and astonishing conclusion.
All in all I think it is safe to conclude this review by letting you know dear reader that Predestination is a film that is most assuredly better left for you, the viewer to explore for yourself rather than be talked to about beyond that of the most basic entry point imaginable. A point of entry that incidentally I also feel should be one which be comprised of an idea that it should do no more and no less than take a movie goer who has even the faintest or most remote interest in giving this slice of cinematic pie a chance past something that in terms of length, width, height, and even dimensions of the proverbial frame of the proverbial front door. Indeed here is a movie that comes equipped with such intricate and thought-provoking ideas that are truly riveting to analyze and ponder especially when you start immersing yourself under the surface and start uncovering all the intriguing subtext that can be located in the vast majority of the tiny nooks, shelves, and hidden spaces the movie has purposely built into it. With all of that being said however, there is one detail that I think you should know before you even remotely think of giving this movie a shot for your next movie night. That is the fact that this is most certainly not by any stretch of the imagination a film that everyone can truly enjoy. Rather, this is a movie that is designed and meant for those of us out there who have the widest possible mind in the world and for those of us who are not scared in the slightest with watching a film that will simultaneously task you, unnerve you, but also entertain you all at the very same time. Now if you are someone who fits that description then you will be delighted to learn that this movie truly is intriguing material even if it might be a wee bit too much for those more closed minded or whose sensibilities get ruffled a lot easier than others. Indeed Predestination truly makes for a slice of cinematic pie that is absolutely filled to the brim with intriguing discovery which extends past even the basic head scratching moments we see on the silver screen. Moments which even though the movie may assemble in their proper place by the conclusion simply results in the film continuing to open up new doors which lead to astonishing possibilities unlike the vast majority of those seen in the world of film today. On a scale of 1-5 I give Predestination “2014” a solid 3.5 out of 5.