Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Sarah Snook (Jessabelle)
Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones)
Madeleine West (The Condemned)
Freya Stafford (Valentine’s Day)
The film begins in medias res as a time travelling agent is trying to disarm a bomb that explodes and burns his face. Someone approaches and helps him to grasp his time travelling device, then brings him to a hospital in the future. While the agent is recovering from facial reconstruction, we learn that he has been trying to prevent the “Fizzle Bomber”‘s attack on New York, in 1975. After his recovery he receives his last assignment.The agent moves to 1970 New York. As a bartender, he starts a conversation with one of the customers. The customer, John, writes true confession articles under the pen name “The Unmarried Mother”. This pseudonym is explained by his own life story, which he tells the bartender. The customer grew up as “Jane” in an orphanage. She excelled in her studies but had difficulty fitting in. Jane decided any children she had would be raised in a proper family, and thus avoided relationships. As an adult she applied for a program called “Space Corp”, which promised women the chance to go to space while providing astronauts R&R, but she was later disqualified because of a medical condition which she was not informed of, which a man named Robertson was interested in. Jane later met a man who said he was waiting for someone. The two fell in love with each other, but later the man disappeared. Robertson approached Jane, revealing that Space Corp worked for the Temporal Agency, and this agency now wanted to recruit her. They broke off contact when it was discovered that Jane was pregnant with her ex-lover’s baby. While performing a Caesarean section, doctors discovered she was intersex, with internalized male sex organs as well as female sex organs. Complications during the birth forced them to remove her female sex organs, and she had to undergo a gender reassignment and begin living as a man. Furthermore, the baby was stolen by a mysterious man. Since then, John has been living a bitter life as “The Unmarried Mother”.The agent offers to take John back to the day that Jane met the lover who left her, so John can take revenge and kill him for ruining her life. In return, John will take over the agent’s job for whatever duration he wishes. The agent reveals his time travel device and the two jump to that day in 1963. John prepares to kill his past lover before he can meet Jane. While waiting, he encounters Jane, and when they begin talking, John realizes that Jane’s lover was him. The baby born from this “self-fertilization” is stolen by the agent and brought to the orphanage 18 years earlier, in 1945. Therefore, Jane, John, and their baby are the same person, revealing a predestination paradox.The agent goes to 1975 New York, where he helps the burned man from the beginning of the film. The agent returns to 1963, a few months after he dropped John off. John has to leave Jane behind and is brought to the Temporal Agency. He now takes over the job so the agent can retire in 1975 New York, close to the day of the Fizzle Bomber’s attack. The agent’s time-travel device does not decommission itself as planned and can still be used. He has been ordered to check a launderette at the moment the Fizzle Bomber will be there. The Fizzle Bomber turns out to be the agent’s own future self, now suffering from psychosis as a result of excessive time travel. The Fizzle Bomber insists that his actions have saved and will save more lives than the lives lost, and that they ultimately lead to the reinforcement of the Temporal Agency. He tries to convince the agent that the only way to end the cycle is to spare his life, unlike the Fizzle Bomber did in his past. The agent denies he will ever become the Fizzle Bomber and kills his future self.The film finally reveals that in 1975, John is the man who travelled to New York and was burned while disarming a bomb. His subsequent facial reconstruction significantly changes his appearance, and it is now clear that Jane, John, the agent, and the Fizzle Bomber are the same person. This agent’s creation was orchestrated by Robertson to create an agent who has no ties to time. This “perfect” temporal agent was responsible for both his own conception and death; he has driven the predestination paradox to its limit.Predestination is an incredibly original and creative film, employing what may seem like ‘common’ aspects of the science-fiction genre, and putting a darker, grimmer twist on them. Time travel is handled quite well in this Australian film, focusing less on the effects of travelling back (and forth) in time than other sci-fi films. Predestination uses decidedly odd pacing, beginning with a ‘bang’ and following that up with almost an hour of subdued plot. But oddly enough, these moments of -almost- pure dialogue and occasional flashbacks never become boring, but rather deepen the film’s characters and their back-stories. The cast performances are what really make this movie ‘shine’. Ethan Hawke, as usual, delivers an almost flawless performance as the unnamed lead, and Sarah Snook, an Australian newcomer, surprises with her wide range of acting abilities. Overall, the third feature film by the Spierig Brothers is a surprisingly original, daring, and genre-bending film.