Predestination (2014) — Time travel, paradoxes, and identity contortion

“What if I could put him in front of you? The man that ruined your life. If I could guarantee that you’d get away with it, would you kill him?”

Justin’s rating: Hill Valley 1985 will never be the same again

Justin’s review: In my quest to discover cult movies, I’ve pursued some avenues far more than others. I’m not really interested as much in cheap horror schlock — there’s more than enough out there to go around — than intelligent (and fun!) science fiction. When I was perusing lists of underrated scifi flicks of the past couple decades, one title came up almost more than all the rest.

Predestination. Predestination. Predestination. People really raved about this one, and so I bumped it up on my to-watch list. Now that I have gone through it, I mostly agree with the crowd. While I suspect that there are plenty of continuity and logical holes present here, I almost don’t care. Predestination is a terrific experience.

Without going deep into spoiler territory (I wouldn’t dream of it), I will offer some up-front advice: Be patient with this movie. The first part is a whole lot of setup for the events to follow, and while that setup is interesting in its own right, you may forget entirely you’re watching a time travel flick.

What we have here are three stories that drift toward each other in a future connection that’s hard to see at first. There’s a time traveling agent (Ethan Hawke, who is a face I haven’t seen in a while) who’s trying to track down a serial bomber who unleashed a horrific blast in 1975. There’s a bitter writer (Sarah Snook) who spills a life story that’s almost impossible to believe. And there’s the “Fizzle Bomber,” who doesn’t seem to belong in any of these timelines.

It’s a sad film in parts, but not so sad as to drag it too far past recovery. Instead, it toys with the concepts of time travel paradoxes and predestined timelines to take a “what if?” scenario and play it out. There’s even a hint of an alternate universe in here if you’re paying attention, especially to the 1960s era that seems to feature a space program that’s somewhat more advanced than anything we had in our own world.

Hawke and Snook are both dynamite here. It’s to their credit that they can make something as mundane as having a conversation across a bar riveting. You may be itching with impatience when they start in on a long backstory, but I guarantee that you’ll find yourself riveted within minutes. These are characters that are genuinely worth knowing, in a situation that’s genuinely worth exploring.

The Spierig brothers turned out a great cult film in Daybreakers, and I think that the two topped themselves with Predestination.  With a pulse-pounding soundtrack and generally terrific performances all around, Predestination hooked me from the start even though I often felt like I was trying to catch up with the plot and sort it out in my head. This is exactly one of those kinds of movies that you’ll be thinking about a whole lot long after you watched it, which are the type of scifi movies that I adore.

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