Daily Archives: October 25, 2020

Predestination (2014)

*. Sometimes you just need to leave well enough alone. Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” is a classic story, considered by many to be one of the finest imaginings of time-travel ever. Throw in a couple of great performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook (the latter being a revelation to me) and this movie should have been set.
*. To some extent they were set, as Predestination is a very good movie if not a classic. But the add-ons don’t add anything. In fact, I think they’re more a distraction. The character of the Fizzle Bomber is wholly made up and, not surprisingly, it’s the one element that doesn’t fit. It just seems to have been thrown in to pad out the story and give the plot a motive force along the lines of 12 Monkeys.

*. This is too bad, as the premise is wonderfully realized and just needed a bit more moodiness from directors Michael and Peter Spierig to give it more depth. I was on board with the infinitely looping paradox idea and the two leads are, as I’ve said, perfect. Ethan Hawke’s persona of the confused intellectual finally seems at home and Snook is entirely believable as Leonardo DiCaprio not in drag. But it’s all presented in a way that’s perhaps too subtle for its own good. The meet creepy, for example, between the Unmarried Woman and Jane is underplayed to the point of my nearly missing it.
*. I understand wanting to do it this way. The nature of the story is meant to suggest if not a narrative trap then at least a certain amount of inevitability. Hence the title. But it’s hard to tell when the main character becomes aware of this cycle. How does s/he feel about all this? Angry? Resigned to living a kind of Groundhog Day existence? Can we even say that s/he grows or develops? I think that’s actually a fascinating question, but I don’t see where the Spierigs tried to follow up on it. They seem more interested in things like the retro d├ęcor of the space academy.
*. In short, it’s a movie I both really liked and felt frustrated by. What I wanted to see was a deeper exploration of the main idea. Things got a little too Hollywood though. Not enough for great box office, but enough to put a wrinkle in the timeline I couldn’t get straight.