Confident, puzzling sci-fi from the Spierig Brothers, starring Ethan Hawke
Strangely alluring and memorably absurd, Predestination – written and directed by the German-born, Australia-raised identical twins Peter and Michael Spierig – is a guilty pleasure sci-fi that’ll almost have you leaving the cinema believing you’ve just seen the best gender-bending film ever made.
Based on Robert A Heinlein’s short story from 1959, 'All You Zombies', it boasts a time-travelling crime-fighter, known as a temporal agent, who's trying to stop New York’s ‘Fizzle Bomber’ in the 1970s and who, after the dramatic events of the opener, soon requires plastic surgery – the kind that makes him look like Ethan Hawke. Things get weirder when the film shifts from a sci-fi / noir hybrid to a bar tale as the agent, in the guise of a barkeep, sets up drinks for an effeminate chap who tells his remarkable, and of course related, story: he was born a girl in 1945.
The compelling cast – including Hawke (who worked with the brothers on the vampire flick Daybreakers), Noah Taylor and Sarah Snook – ground the film emotionally, with the drama intensifying as they circle each other in time and the pieces of this grand puzzle start to slot into place. Featuring terrific costumes and superb production design alongside its audacious shifts in gear, this feels like a combination of Cloud Atlas, Looper and Jane Austen.
This low-budget Australian production takes a laudable running jump at profundity but, pacy and confident though it is, Predestination twists and turns so often you won't be sure which way to look. Such maneuvers gives gloss to a tale of lost love and the horror of truth. Then your mind catches up. Ultimately it's a head-scratcher.
Selected release from Fri 20 Feb.