I love being surprised by films in the early part of the year. January and February, as we know, is where films get dumped when the companies think they’ve got a stinker and maybe it’ll make a small splash, where any other time of year, it would die a horrible death. But then, every once in a while, you get a sleeper film that’s above the rest of the usual fare this time of year. Amazingly, I’m going to talk about the SECOND surprise of January.
Yes, Predestination is one of those pleasant surprises. It’s even more surprising because it’s a science fiction film that has time travel as it’s subject. Most people get time travel wrong, or they simply leave gaping holes in their plots and they fall apart. But Predestination has the benefit of being based on a short story by the legendary Robert Heinlein. Pretty solid bones to be working from.
Ethan Hawke plays a Temporal Agent that has spent some 30 years preventing serious crimes from happening through various points in history. Now, as his last mission, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
Predestination is directed by The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter) who also made Daybreakers, which was an interesting idea that I felt didn’t pan out. But they’ve easily shown what they’re capable of with this film. The Spierig Brothers also wrote this screenplay, based on the short story by Heinlein. It’s funny, I love science fiction, but had not ever heard of the short story this was based on, called “All You Zombies”. (If you haven’t read that short story, I’d wait to read it after you see the film because of spoilers.)
So, after seeing Predestination and then reading about it, I found the short story and read that. In doing so, I came to an opinion that is pretty rare for me. As great as the story is, The Spierig Brothers fleshed it out and actually improved upon the original. Oh, it’s basically the same, but these guys managed to add some great material to deftly create a rich narrative that adds depth and accentuates the emotional aspects of the story.
Predestination also stars Sarah Snook who’s absolutely stellar in this. She’s relatively new, having only been really active since about 2009. But she is, well, just amazing here. And she has so much to work with. Hawke is really great, too, as well as Noah Taylor and the rest of the cast.
So, as I’ve said, Predestination certainly has a compelling emotional story. But it also manages to keep it’s science fiction elements in check. They stick to their rules about time travel and when all is said and done, all the pieces seem to fit together without any glaring flaws. And they give you all the information you need to follow the film to its’ conclusion. I don’t know if you’ll see where it’s going early on, but even if you do, you’ll have fun getting there.
I really like Predestination. Such an unexpectedly enjoyable surprise for a sci-fi film. I’m lavishing a solid four kittenhands on this. Definitely recommend it. I mean, how watchable could Mortdecai really be? Ack.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, liking Ethan Hawke a lot more than Johnny Depp these days.