Featuring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Screenwriters/Directors: Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig (adapted from 1958 short story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein)
Movie website: www.pinnaclefilms.com.au/Product/Details/5ba7f4e8-d08a-4c4c-871c-a11100ec8a63
Australian release date: Thursday, 28 August, 2014 (Grand Armadale, Grand Bunbury, Grand Currambine, Grand Joondalup, Grand Warwick, Grand Whitfords, Hoyts Carousel)
Verdict: Hip, intellectually challenging, hugely entertaining, brilliantly wrought and speaks to some of the most profound concerns of today’s world.
John (Ethan Hawke) is a law-enforcement and anti-terror agent working for a top secret government organisation. He travels back and forward in time countering attacks before they happen. His final assignment is to pursue and eliminate the notorious Fizzle Bomber, who has mounted a series of disastrous terrorist attacks and has thus far eluded him.
Numerous films have explored the concept of time travel. It’s passé to observe it’s become passé. Every so often, though, a fresh take makes it through the creative pipeline, occasionally an ingenious one. Predestination is both ingenious and brilliantly executed. That’s a rare treat.
Aussie writer/director brothers Peter and Michael Spierig started in front, basing their narrative on a short story, All You Zombies, by sci-fi great Robert E. Heinlein, in which it is predicated – logically, if you can get your head around it (which took some time for yours truly) – that the time traveller does not simply disappear from the present when jumping back and forward chronologically, but co-exists as different versions of themselves in different time frames. This notion is the key to the goings-on in Predestination, opening the door to all sorts of mind-boggling possibilities, identity issues and moral dilemmas.
What if, in travelling through time, a character was to encounter themselves at various stages of life? What if they knew they were about to make a terrible mistake? The time-travelling self has the power to alter the decisions and actions of versions of themselves at whatever points in time they encounter them, but should they?
And what about altering global history, even if it seems for the better? For example, if through time-travel intervention a terror attack is prevented that saves the life of a subsequent tyrant – another Hitler, say – responsible for a future catastrophic event with an enormous human toll, what then? Would it be preferable to stand aside and allow the attack to occur? That is, would collateral damage be morally permissible in order to prevent greater disaster in the future? As with the best sci-fi, the ethical reference point is the real world – this is the justification for virtually every war that has ever been waged, and every act of terrorism.
It is also the assumption on which the lead character, time-travelling agent John, and the secret government organisation he works for, operate. The assumption – and a whole lot more besides – is fascinatingly investigated as the drama unfolds.
Spoiler-consciousness imposes an unusually strict limit here on revealing much about the story or characters, which are intertwined so inextricably that to expand on one is to risk saying too much about the other. Suffice it to say that Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook do their characters full justice, which in a complex, spaced-out (but brilliantly managed) piece like this is no mean feat.
Set in New York and Cleveland, the movie was actually shot in Melbourne. From the opening scene in a New York bar, 1970 off The Stooges’ classic Funhouse album announcing the time setting and contributing a sonic undercurrent of chaos and edge, Predestination is hip, intellectually challenging, hugely entertaining, brilliantly wrought and speaks to some of the most profound concerns of today’s world. That’s a bloody rare combo! I’m not a sci-fi fan, but this is one out of the box. Unmissable – and in the mix as best Australian flick of the year.
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