‘Predestination’ Review: It’s Much More Than A Time-Traveling Film
Predestination starts with Ethan Hawke asking the question, “What if I put in front of you the man who ruined your life. If you get away with it, would you kill him?” As the film systematically travels back and forth through time, it becomes apparent that the answer to that question is far more complicated than one would believe.
‘Predestination’ movie Review
Hawke plays a Temporal Agent for some sort of secret organization that serves to prevent crimes and change the course of events, calling to mind movies like Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau. While both of those films are arguably good, neither has the depth of Predestination, which adds on to the sci-fi action film genre with an unusual look into personal tragedy and complicated identities.
For the agent, whose many years of time traveling have taken their toll, his last mission is to take out the “Fizzle Bomber,” who’s wreaking havoc in the early 90s.
Whipping out his time-traveling machine that rests within an inconspicuous violin case, the agent transports himself to a New York City bar in 1992. There, he serves John (Sarah Snook), a suspicious character that he ultimately befriends. John tells the agent his life story, which starts off in an orphanage when he was a girl named Jane.
As John tells his story, the film follows his narrative in a lengthy flashback – from Jane’s angry days in the orphanage, to the meeting of a kind and mysterious man who left her after a short stint as lovers, to her failed attempt to join the ranks of women in the Space Corps, to the pregnancy that bore her a child, but destroyed her female organs. The doctors, realizing that she’s in fact intersex and in possession of male sex organs, offered to physically transform her into a man. Thus, John, was born.
Jane/John’s story, as told by John, cuts through notions of sensitivity and delivers punch after incisive punch following the wending tragedy of his life, perpetually interrupted by one struggle after another. The story is told with such uncensored frankness that its unlikely appearance in a science fiction film feels far from banal, but incredibly curious and engaging.
John, offered the chance to become a Temporal Agent himself, and gifted with the chance to kill the man that impregnated and left him when he was Jane, goes back in time. There, he comes to realize that going back to that point in time was part of his future and that killing the man that ruined Jane’s life would, in effect, end his future.
The unfolding of Jane/John’s story allows Predestination to build up like a slow and steady burn that seems almost unlikely to produce a narrative explosion worthy of a true thriller. But, like the Fizzle Bomber’s contraptions, Predestination’s climax blows up with all the power to level any expectations.