Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Predestination" Review - Stunningly Original Take On The Time Travel Genre That Will Blow Your Mind


The Spierig Brothers are an interesting filmmaking duo. They dabble mainly in genre pictures such as zombies, aliens, vampires or with time travel which happens to be the subject of their latest concoction entitled Predestination. What makes them standout from all the other genre filmmakers out there though is that they never seem content to just offer up some more of the same much like their peers often do. They always put a spin or some sort of a twist or wrinkle in the tried and true formula that despite whether it works or not at the very least shows they are trying which is more than we can say for most of the drivel that comes out of Hollywood. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats: 
Projector Type: Video on demand           
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime: 1 hr 37 min
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date: January 9, 2015

Biases:  
Loves: Smart science-fiction, time travel genre
Likes: Daybreakers, Ethan Hawke
Neutral:  Undead 
Hates: When a movie cheats to keep its secrets hidden
How come I never heard of this until now?: Because apparently we wanted Taken 3 more.

Ethan Hawke wants to face the person who ruined his life, but should he?
Instead of just making another zombie movie, their film Undead had zombies AND aliens. In Daybreakers instead of just a movie about humans versus vampires, we got a film where the vampires wanted to become human. With Predestination, which judged solely by its deviously enigmatic synopsis sounds like nothing more than a Timecop rip off (not the best thing to be compared to for sure), we don't get just another movie about people traveling through time to stop blah blah from doing blah blah which could eventually mess up time causing paradoxes, continuum's and an assortment of other techno babble speak.. What we get instead is a film that isn't afraid to take some big risks and gamble with some pretty high stakes on whether or not the audience is into a time travel story that lacks all the flash and big special effects we usually associate with this type of material.

It's important to note that this isn't an action movie, nor is it really even a Sci-fi movie despite featuring time travel as a key component to its delicately weaved web of intrigue. In fact, anyone coming into the film with that predisposition towards it might find themselves often times wondering if they are watching the correct movie due to how methodical it is in setting up its intricate string of events that have been masterfully woven together. The film starts out like a typical time travel story with just a tinge of film noir thrown in for good measure. We see a series of clips from moments we do not yet understand the importance of and meet characters we don't really know yet and all signs seem to be pointing in a predictable direction not even realizing that the script is just having fun with us.

Working as a time agent has its drawbacks, such as leaving too much of yourself all over time.
During that time we have a narration playing by Ethan Hawke who is explaining the ins and outs of the job as a time agent for a new recruit, which from what see appears to be his younger self who is setting out to capture a very elusive killer known only as the Sizzle Bomber. This is someone who has eluded him his entire career as a time agent and he has one last chance to get them before he is off the job forever which is when he decides to bend a few rules to help him win the day. After all that set up we cut to a bar in 1975 where Ethan Hawke's younger self is tending bar who casually strikes up a conversation with a lonely patron who begins to tell him an incredible story, a story that couldn't possibly be true, but if it is...well, that changes things significantly for everyone, past, present and future.

It's at this point where Predestination veers off from the usual formulaic road for a time travel movie and steers into its own path down a road that will eventually lead the audience on what can only be described as a mind bending tour de force experience. You will question every moment, every action and every word that is spoken. You will no doubt wonder what any of it means and when you do finally start to piece some of it together another few pieces are thrown on the table to further convince you that despite your hard work trying to figure it all out, you are still wrong. This isn't one of those films you should try to work out but instead just let it happen and discover its brilliance as it expertly puts the puzzle together before your eyes.

Sarah Snook's performance is nothing short of a revelation.
Now, unfortunately there is a slightly nagging nitpick that arose while watching the film due to the nature of the time travel genre. While it isn't as big a deal here as it often is in many other films of this ilk, it can become extremely distracting to anyone paying really close attention looking for those little details. The logistics of who is who and how it explains when and where they are works for the most part except for when it cheats to keep certain identities a secret. Sadly it is impossible to convey what the problem is or else risk ruining the entire film for you. But suffice to say there is a fine line between fooling your audience through visual trickery and outright lying to them by showing us something that couldn't possibly be true in hindsight.

Special mention must go out to the actors as well who all turn in some really great work here. Actors are always an essential part of any movie, but when it comes to science fiction and time travel it is all too easy to play it light or campy. The three primaries, Ethan Hawke, Noah Taylor and Sarah Snook treat the material like the serious human drama it is which elevates the already excellent script into something more akin to a Gattaca than say a Timecop. Sarah Snook in particular, whose previous work is unknown to this reviewer, steals the show with a mutli-layered transformational performance that goes beyond good into truly remarkable.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Time travel movies are tough to get right. You might find a lot of faults in Predestination's script and you may or may not choose to look past them, but regardless of any of that there is a really great story supporting it all which helps make those nitpicks fade away while you focus on all the good stuff. The Spierig Brothers have put together a film that will make Sci-fi geeks squeal in glee while simultaneously making a film that goes beyond the boundaries of that genre by intertwining what could quite possibly be one of the most deliciously twisted end game revelations to come around in quite some time. 

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