The great thing about science fiction films is that they can pretty much take you anywhere. From action-adventures to romantic comedies, sci-fi can serve as the perfect backdrop for truly riveting cinema. The new Ethan Hawke film Predestination is science fiction for sure but it also has a bunch of other genres that it falls under and sadly this mishmash of genres creates some confusion as to what the true identity of the film is. Is it a big budget production and one of its leading actors turns in a superb performance but the film suffers from a severe lack of direction. Audiences may leave the theater scratching their heads and eventually forget this average sci-fi picture.
Based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies, Predestination is a curious film that focuses on two characters and their bizarre interactions all throughout the film’s 97-minute runtime. Hawke plays an unnamed agent in pursuit of a terrorist. We soon learn that the agent has in his possession, a time machine device. On the verge of retirement, the agent is assigned one last case involving an intersex person named John (Sarah Snook) and a government conspiracy. Things get complicated as we see flashbacks of both characters, interacting in different points in time.
Predestination is one of the more strange science fiction films to come out in recent times. The plot surrounding John is quite odd in that it doesn’t really match that of the agent. These two characters couldn’t be more different and their association is the epitome of “random”. That isn’t to say it doesn’t make for a decent movie. Predestination is an ambitious experiment in genre mixing, combining a spy thriller with a character drama. The sci-fi elements serve as the base and it is a very intriguing film to say the least.
Ethan Hawke is adequate here and his usual everyman persona fits the film quite well. There is nothing special about his performance except that he provides a good character for John to play off of. John is played by young Australian actress Sarah Snook (Jessabelle, Not Suitable For Children) and she is without a doubt, the film’s strongest aspect. Her portrayal of an intersex man is powerful, sincere, and downright brilliant. With just this performance, Snook has proven that she has incredible range as well as an excellent screen presence. One can only hope that she stars in more high profile films in the future because she is simply superb.
With the time travel element in place and a shadowy government conspiracy plot, you would think Predestination has a lot going for it. This is sadly not the case. It is a busy, sometimes confusing thriller with a lot of unnecessary plots and subplots. If only writer/directors Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers, Undead) focused on one character backstory instead of presenting a bunch of different ideas, the picture would have been a lot stronger. Also, more time needed to be spent in the editing room and while Robert A. Heinlein’s short story is a unique hybrid of sci-fi and drama, Predestination is a film that will leave you feeling confused in more ways than one.