In Michael and Peter Spierig’s unashamedly entertaining time-travelling extravaganza Predestination, Ethan Hawke plays ‘The Barkeep’ – who tells lonesome customer, and part-time agony aunt ‘The Unmarried Mother’ (Sarah Snook), that he will give away a free bottle of whiskey if he can be told the greatest story he’s ever heard. The stranger dutifully obliges – telling a remarkable tale, but without ever realising the man listening plays a huge part himself – as the unassuming barman is a temporal agent on a classified mission, hoping to capture (and eliminate) a notorious, barbaric criminal.
When tackling time travel in film, it’s easily scrutinised, as with such an ambitious, grandiose concept, comes the ability to find flaws and pick holes in the various plot-points that simply don’t add up. However in Predestination, for all of the distinct absurdity that it thrives in, there’s a genuinely intriguing narrative that’s been comprised – one that is intelligently crafted, and ingeniously put together. You remain a step behind the filmmakers throughout, never able to guess their next move, which is mostly down to the fact that it’s all completely insane.
There’s a b-movie feel to this title though, which is to the picture’s benefit. When making a film that is as playfully executed as this endeavour, and one that revels in frivolity, being sincere and stony-faced is often detrimental to proceedings, and actually playing up to the affectionate conventionalities of the genre adds to the film’s undeniable charm. Snook shines in the leading role too, managing to give a nuanced display, taking on a truly challenging role that really brings the best out of this talented actress.
Predestination is far from being a masterpiece, but the Spierig brothers are never aiming for such acclaim, instead remaining within their means, and given the lack of budget required to create an indelible visual experience, they put all of their energy into making this narrative comprehensible, and one the viewer can immerse themselves in – and it’s safe to say they’ve triumphed. Had they attempted to make this any better, it may only have ended up being worse.