Time travel films are often frustrating affairs. I personally tend to care very little for “plot holes” or similar issues in the mechanical shaping of a film’s story – in the sense that things like plot holes don’t bother me, as long as the greater vision behind a film’s story is carried out well. There’s a lot more to a film than plot, and I’m rarely as interested in the plot of a film as I am other elements. But time travel films tend to hyper-focus on the plot so much, to be so impressed with their own cleverness (with they loudly proclaim with every oh-so-surprising twist), that it’s nearly impossible to not be bothered by how they break their own rules of storytelling. It’s a frustrating subgenre for me, because it tends to focus so hard on an aspect of a film I don’t find particularly interesting at the best of times, and because I’m usually not a great fan of hard science-fiction.
“Predestination” has a lot of plot. It’s a very clever plot. I’m sure it drives some people crazy with its unique peculiar logic. But what really drives me to love the film so much, is that the plot isn’t “the thing”, the movie isn’t here to impress viewers with a clever plot. The plot is in service to the greater story of the film. It’s a convoluted and clever time travel movie aiming for something more than just being convoluted and clever. It ends up being a truly fascinating examination of identity, gender, and free will. The joy of the film isn’t trying to puzzle out its mysteries, it’s considering its nuanced exploration of its themes.
It’s impossible to elaborate on the brilliance of the film without spoiler-y specifics, so I won’t go there. Suffice to say, the cast (basically just the always-reliable Ethan Hawke, the very talented relative newcomer Sarah Snook, and a few brief appearances from the always-enjoyable Noah Taylor) do fantastic work conveying the complicated emotional journeys of their characters, the writing is very precise and deliberate in how it sets out its cerebral yet affecting story, and the Spierig brothers do excellent overall work in the direction of the film, stretching what I assume was a relatively thin budget in creative ways. Great to see such powerful, well-told genre work from Australia.
I give it four fizzle bombings, and a minimalist time machine.