Take a Drink: for each plot twist.
Take a Drink: anytime a character does.
Do a Shot: during each heartbreaking scene.
Do a Shot: for each impressive frame.
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
One of the most underrated director tandems working today are the Spierig Brothers. Many are unaware of the tandem’s work, but they have directed some severely underrated genre films. Undead was a smart and fun take on the zombie genre, while 2010’s Daybreakers was one of the more underrated science-fiction films in quite some time. The two really make the most out of the limited money they have to work with, focusing on creating a unique landscape and solid characters.
However, the duo has yet to find enough success with their films to put them in the mainstream. Undead gained almost no traction here in the States in its limited release, and, while Daybreakers did have a wide release platform, it was only a minor hit at best. Despite their limited financial success, the tandem continues to get involved in interesting projects. Their latest film Predestination, despite a few flaws, is an ambitious and engaging science-fiction flick.
Based on the Robert Heinlein story All You Zombies, Predestination follows a time-traveling Temporal Agent, who must pursue that which has eluded him throughout his life.
Predestination features two truly standout performances. Ethan Hawke has been on fire as of late with his recent roles in Boyhood and Before Midnight. As usual Hawke brings a lot of charm to the role, while also being effective in the film’s more dramatic moments. He has developed into one of the best actors working today, and continues to show a great deal of versatility.
The true standout, though, is Sarah Snook, whose career is beginning to truly take off, as she breaks out with her role in this film. Snook commands the screen from the film’s opening to its close, with her performance being quite dramatic. She also handles the moments of pathos quite well, with an understated, yet heartbreaking, approach to these moments. Other supporting players such as Noah Taylor and Christopher Kirby also do a solid job with their respective roles.
As usual for a Spierig Brothers film, Predestination looks fantastic. The duo have a reputation of creating visually impressive films with a small budget, and continue to do so here. Their longtime Cinematographer Ben Nott does a great job, getting some impressively grand shots despite their budgetary limitations. The way that these two create lived-in landscapes despite the small scale of their films is an impressive skill that few can duplicate.
Adapting All You Zombies was such a good idea, mainly because the story is just so damn intriguing. This is one of the more unique time travel storylines I have seen, and it certainly does not take the typical approach to telling a time-travel story. With every twist and turn, the film gets more and more engaging, with quite a few surprises leaving me on the edge of my seat; it’s an interesting yarn that just continues to unravel in unique ways.
What makes Predestination stand out from a lot of other science-fiction flicks is its emotional core. As Snook’s Unmarried Mother continues to tell her tale, as an audience you can’t help but feel emotionally connected to her heartbreaking story. This helps in making the events that happen in the latter third of the film have more impact, as I found myself feeling attached to the character.
While each event in the film is quite engaging as far as the story goes, the narrative itself gets a bit tangled as it goes along. There are almost too many twists and turns in the film’s third act, which made some of the last twists feel a bit muddled. It just seems like The Spierig Brothers’ script could have used a bit more organization and clarity; but it’s understandable considering the complicated nature of the story.
There are also a few minor problems with the film. While a majority of what was great about the short story is brought to the big screen, a few aspects aren’t as well adapted. In addition, the opening of the film, while quite exciting, feels just a bit out of place considering how much the film slows down after said opening.
Despite a few issues, Predestination is a bold and engaging time-traveling tale, carried by dynamic leading performances by Hawke and Snook. Let’s all hope that The Spierig Brothers can continue to get interesting projects to be a part of.