Understand. You are more than an Agent. You're a gift given to the world through a predestination paradox. You're the only one, free from history, ancestry.

Predestination ( 2014 )

  |   Aug. 31, 2019

Ethan Hawke stars as an unnamed time travelling agent embarking on an all important final assignment before retirement. We first meet him as he undergoes reconstructive surgery after one of his latest missions ended with terrible injuries. He is tasked with stopping the "Fizzle Bomber", a terrorist wreaking havoc in 1970s New York. First, he disguises himself as a bartender in order to acquaint himself with a barfly writer (Sarah Snook), who will be crucial to his mission. Time travelling takes a toll on the agents, psychosis is among the expected side effects, but still they dart forward and backward with a lightness of foot, and an absolute fixation on the task at hand.

At first glance, Predestination may seem like a standard science fiction outing - a thriller set in a future world building on well established foundations of time travel and "precrime". However, as the movie progresses, it gradually reveals a surprisingly layered and thoughtful story, which sets it above many similar efforts. One of the greatest achievements of the Spierig Brothers is a subversion of expectations. The viewer's idea of a tale told in a vast science fiction universe populated by countless time travellers gives way to something far more intimate and personal. The world they create is a mysterious and unsettling one. It's not clear when the present is, or if that concept even makes sense. Much of what we see is only half-seen, and may or may not have been, or may have been once but not now. For much of the movie, any kind of understanding seems out of reach, and it takes until the final few scenes for the pieces to neatly fit together.

The movie is based on the 1959 short story by Robert A. Heinlein's  "—All You Zombies—", which Carl Sagan classed as a "remarkable" exploration of the principles of causality and the arrow of time. For a number of reasons, the story is inherently difficult to present on screen in a convincing manner, but, a few misses aside, the directors succeed where many others would have failed. What they create is a tense, thought provoking movie centred on fate and identity. It's the directors second outing with Hawke (after Daybreakers), and he drives it forward with a determined performance, with Snook also shining in a supporting role. There is a pleasing economy to the movie, it tells exactly the story it need to tell without an ounce of fat. As the full gravity of the movie's message gradually becomes apparent, it leaves a lasting impression.