Film review: PREDESTINATION, from Built For Speed

The genesis of Predestination seems to have been a competition to come up with the most brain-twisting time travel story imaginable. Never has a film folded in on itself quite like Predestination.  Based on the Robert Heinlein short story All You Zombies and touching on other time travel and sci-fi films such as Looper, Time Cop and Minority Report, Predestination eschews straightforward narrative for a neuron-twisting, gender-bending puzzle that provides an intriguing intellectual exercise but doesn’t really add up to a complete film.

Predestination stars Ethan Hawke an agent working for a mysterious organisation which has developed the ability to travel through time. Their purpose is to identify perpetrators of mass killings, travel back in time and stop them (generally by killing them). Central to this film is Hawke’s pursuit of a (fictitious) terrorist known as the Fizzle Bomber who, in 1975, detonated a massive bomb in New York City.  During his journey through time he encounters a young woman (Sarah Snook) who seems to hold important secrets concerning the bomber and Hawke.

Predestination is the brainchild of writer/directors the Spierig Brothers, who gave us the impressive Vampire thriller Daybreakers.  Like that film Predestination operates on a limited budget but unfortunately this film suffers more from the lack of funds.  Too much of the film looks like it was shot in a couple of rooms and some of the interior sets are unconvincing. Having been shot around Melbourne, the film also suffers the curse of the recognisable locations which evokes memories of the cringe-worthy 1993 Jimmy Smits/ Naomi Watts film Gross Misconduct.

The film also suffers from an occasionally dull script.  The early part of the film is seriously weighed down with exposition and voice-over and much of it simply features Hawke sitting in a bar talking to Sarah Snook who is disguised by heavy prosthetic make up.

The film does up the action quotient considerably in the second half as Hawke closes in on the Fizzle bomber.  The increase in the film’s intensity also coincides, however, with an increase in the brain-boggling strangeness. Previous time travel films have challenged our sense of logic but Predestination goes to an entirely new and bizarre level.  Despite this the film still manages to telegraph its final revelation leaving it somewhat underwhelming.

Hawke is fine if not utterly compelling as the agent but Sarah Snook is terrific in a demanding multi-layered role that should earn her Hollywood attention.  Noah Taylor also appears in a badly underwritten part and has one of the worst American accents in cinema history.

Predestination will probably benefit from repeated viewings which might reveal additional plot subtleties but the initial experience of watching this film may not be enough to inspire that second viewing.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Science Fiction.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): The Spierig Brothers.

Release date: 28th August 2014.

Running time: 137 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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