With Predestination, the Spierig Brothers take the narrative gimmick to the nth degree. It’s not just a real part of the story, it’s the story. Unlike most films where there’s some satisfaction for the viewer in discovering the gimmick, the Spierigs figure out a way to just push the viewer further down the rabbit hole. The film’s a delicately constructed guided tour of a maze (though the guide isn’t clear) and the film raises a lot of questions it doesn’t want to be responsible for answering. The gimmick gives the Spierigs a way out–because if it’s about the gimmick, there’s no responsibility.
But so much of Predestination is so good–and expertly constructed–it’s hard to imagine how they could do the story with responsibility. They don’t promise it and the gimmick unravels entertainingly throughout. So it’s a success. It’s a moderately budgeted time travel picture and all the settings are great. Between the careful composition and Ben Nott’s delicate photography, the film always looks good.
And the acting is excellent. Ethan Hawke has to perform with the gimmick in mind, which means having an utterly sympathetic, but somewhat obtuse demeanor. It’s impossible to identify with him, more impossible the more his character develops, but the the film still requires the viewer do so. As his protege, Sarah Snook has a rather difficult role (which just gets more difficult) and she does well.
It’s a very strange film (and not). It should be better, it shouldn’t be so good.
Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig; screenplay by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Ben Nott; edited by Matt Villa; music by Peter Spierig; production designer, Matthew Putland; produced by Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan and Michael Spierig; released by Pinnacle Films.
Starring Ethan Hawke (The Bartender), Sarah Snook (The Unmarried Mother) and Noah Taylor (Mr. Robertson).