The Horror Honeys: A Paradox That Rocks!

A Paradox That Rocks!

A Sci-Fi Honey New Release Review by Katie

Predestination (2015)

If I travel back decades in time, can I meddle with my life to such an extent, that I could irrevocably alter who I am – maybe even murdering my grandparent, thereby negating my existence altogether – or could I become someone else entirely? Today’s new release film, opening in theatres across the U.S., poses a series of similar questions initiated by a seemingly commonplace setup. An ordinary-looking man takes a seat in a bar, throws down a few shots, and woefully tells the barkeep the sad story of his life: “when I was a little girl…” Wait, what?! Thus begins a tale where no one and nothing are what they seem in Michael and Peter Spierig’s engaging neo-noir sci-fi thriller, Predestination.

The team behind 2009’s respectable vampire flick Daybreakers, the Spierig brothers reunite with lead actor Ethan Hawke, this time as a “Temporal Agent:" a time-traveling law enforcement officer who leaps around on the space-time continuum in order to prevent crime before it occurs. Having spent his entire career chasing after a notorious terrorist known as the Fizzle Bomber (which makes him sound like his bombs are made out of soda pop, but I’ll give it a pass), Hawke has one more attempt at thwarting a deadly attack on New York City. For his final mission, he meets this mysterious man who walks into his bar – and together, they will delve deeper into how certain pivotal events in both their lives tie to the Fizzle Bomber and every victim in his wake.  

"Just put down that shook up can of Coke, man."
On the surface, Predestination sounds like a retread of Timecop – with a little Minority Report and Looper thrown in for good measure – but this film so expertly subverts any “rules” of the genre, it manages to feel fresh and innovative even when mining well-known territory. The first thing the film does to defy expectations is to depict one of our main characters – John Doe, also known as “The Unmarried Mother” – as intersex, born with both male and female reproductive organs. Played as both male and female in different stages of his life, Australian actress Sarah Snook tackles the role of John Doe/The Unmarried Mother with star-making brilliance. Following up her capable performance in last year’s Southern Gothic horror film Jessabelle, Snook is sure to garner some highly-deserved praise for her brave and complex navigation of dual identities with palpable anguish, desperation, and determination.  

Pictured: your new favorite actress.
Atmospherically very old-fashioned for such a futuristic plot, the film takes place in time periods that look and feel familiar for most of us: the 1940s through the 1990s. The special effects, while incredibly well done, are kept to a minimum; a majority of the film plays like a social drama as retold in a single candid conversation between two people. This subtlety presents a nice contrast to the bigger “sci-fi” moments of the film’s time-travel scenes, and allows for a greater sense of intimacy between the two lead characters. As the exchange between Snook and Hawke continues, the perplexities presented by the very idea of time travel grow more and more profound, and the stakes are even higher for all involved.  To give any more away would be a disservice to an audience who craves sci-fi stories that warp and challenge your perspective.

You'll need a helmet to contain all that mindblowing.
With a lesser dependence on showy visual effects, the film can focus on fleshing out the story’s source material: a short piece entitled All You Zombies, authored by one of the most influential science fiction writers, Robert A. Heinlein. The original story focused on the concept of the “Paradox” problem with time travel, which is explored in-depth in the film both literally and conceptually. Are we “predestined” to repeat the same pattern time and again, no matter how hard we try to deviate from our paths – like the Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail? As one character in the film laments, “it’s a Paradox, but it can’t be ‘para-doctored.’” The best way to enjoy this film is to yield to its enigmatic logic, even if you are left scratching your head by the closing credits. I prefer a film that stimulates my mind by raising intriguing questions, even if they are unanswered, to a film that doesn’t even dare to pose them.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Four mind-warping paradoxes out of five.

Predestination will be in theaters and available on VOD platforms January 9, 2015