Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
One of the things you can count on at SXSW is the quality of Australian films selected. Predestination is another fantastic example following films like The Hunter in years past. Adapted from a short story and fully envisioned by twin directors Michael and Peter Spierig who worked with Hawke previously on Daybreaks (2009). “There wasn’t a lot of acting in the previous film so I told them I wanted them to write something else for me,” Hawke said. He also admitted the many similarities between Predestination and Gattaca, which is one of the Spierig’s favorite films (and mine). It’s like Gattaca in the fact it’s what I consider the right kind of science fiction film, just enough to make you think but not so much that the world seems impossible.
A conversation between two people in a bar, begins with a challenge to see who has the most incredible story. A writer called “the unmarried mother” (Snook), tells a local bartender a heartbreaking story from birth to now. The bartender (Hawke) thinks this wild tale of transformation is certainly engrossing, but he thinks he might be able to do better and he takes his new friend in the back room on his break, offering a chance to go back and change the biggest opposition in the writers past. The offer is accepted and both bartender and writer will discover something the hidden truth that relates to both of their origins.
Meant to challenge the viewer not only with plot but in self-reflection.
It’s the production value of Predestination that really grabbed me at first. From the creative, high wire camera angles, to the extensively memorable set design and locations, this film establishes its creative perimeters first. The script is the second element that deserves admirable attention as it manages to be suspenseful without trying, purposely unaware. The films themes are vast but what I picked up on the most was the characters choice between family life and purpose, and choosing one over the other. Predestination in many ways is a ride, one that will induce a migraine if you cognitively try to disassemble the plot as it happens. It should unfold before you in its own time.
Much like the themes of Gattaca, Predestination is meant to challenge the viewer not only with plot but in self-reflection. Hawke’s performance is stellar as ever, not as demanding and inspiring as the Anton/Jerome identity crisis, but a crisis non-the less. Not likely to appeal to a wide range audience (this is not a film dependent on special effects or action sequences), the international thriller is the type of science fiction film we don’t see often enough. Most of the screen time belongs to Snook who plays an incredible gender bending character that is beyond fascinating. From cinematography to score, this film is the whole package in a genre that so rarely gets this type of respect.
High quality production value and a riveting idea all come together for a fascinating ride.