★★ / ★★★★
One of the eleven time-traveling agents, only known as The Barkeep (Ethan Hawke), goes back to 1975 to catch and kill the “Fizzle” Bomber, responsible for many deaths across time. In this case, failure to stop him in 1973 will result in losing eleven thousand lives. The Barkeep makes small talk with a writer (Sarah Snook) with a fascinating story to tell, beginning with her life as an orphan up until her female-to-male transition.
“Predestination,” written and directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, offers a strong first half, highly unpredictable in terms of the world the characters inhabit and also from a storytelling standpoint. One comes to believe that the core of the story is the hunt for a terrorist and so we come to expect a thrilling, action-packed picture with many classical twist and turns involving time travel. Instead, from the moment the writer begins to recollect her difficult and painful past, we are thrusted into a story with a lot of heart, insight and intelligence.
I wished that The Spierig Brothers were able to maintain the spirit of the former half. The picture is obviously inspired by Andrew Niccol’s brilliant “Gattaca” in that one of the main characters is so driven to succeed, he is willing to go through whatever it takes to reach his goal. Snook plays her character with a real sense of anger and frustration with the world. Going through the detailed flashbacks, we learn exactly what makes him tick.
The second half is ridiculous, ludicrous and, quite frankly, nonsensical. Although I suspected that something like it is going to transpire because I have seen my fair share of egregious movies involving time travel, I so badly wanted to believe that the material would avoid the headache-inducing clichés. This is because the first forty-five minutes or so shows a genuine sense of creativity, verve, and a willingness to tell a story that may just stand the test of time.
Looking at the final act of the movie, observant viewers will recognize that twists without explanations are not satisfying. The screenplay’s laziness upset me because I was so engaged in the stories of the writer and the barkeep. By the end, I felt as though my time was wasted because the writer-directors had no clue how to finish their story, brimming with potential, in a manner that felt exactly right.
The look of the film, despite being set across time, offers nothing special, but the elegant way in which it lures us into wanting to discover its secrets more than makes up for its lack of visual stamp. What is unforgivable, however, is the messy final thirty minutes, so confused in what it wants to convey, one gets the feeling that the Spierig brothers simply put everything in a pot and hoped that enigma or genius would appear out of the steam.