“What if I could put him in front of you? The man that ruined your life. If I could guarantee that you’d get away with it…would you kill him?”

My first thought after watching Predestination, the Spierig Brothers’ thrilling, stylish, morally complex, mind-boggling, Mobius strip of a movie was: WTF did I just watch? It may already be the best film I’ll see this year. Or last year. Or maybe it was two years from now I saw it. It can be tough keeping all this tricksy, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff straight sometimes.

My second thought? How the Hell do I review this film without spoiling it, without giving something away, without revealing the most minor detail, a thread that will allow you to unravel the plot’s elegant, intricate stitching?

I can’t. It’s impossible. So, if you’re the type of person who claims never to watch trailers and go into a film cold, with as little foreknowledge as possible, STOP READING NOW!

Seriously.

Stop reading.

The less you know going in the better.

Book yourself a ticket.

Go see the movie.

Then come back and let us know what you thought. There’s usually a bit at the bottom of the review where you can agree with me or call me a wanker. Seriously, I genuinely want to know what you thought of this film.

If you’re still reading…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: It’s the early Seventies. New York City is in the grip of a bombing campaign by a terrorist known only as “The Fizzle Bomber.” Two men drink together in a bar, strangers swapping hard luck stories, the nameless, ambiguous Barkeep and the hack writer of magazine confession stories who goes under the pen name The Unmarried Mother. The Barkeep challenges the Unmarried Mother to tell him his best story, the one with the toughest breaks and the twist you never see coming. The Unmarried Mother takes a drink, lights a cigarette and says: “When I was a little girl…”

Born intersex and abandoned on an orphanage doorstep, in a post-WW2 America just a nudge to the left of our own, the Unmarried Mother was raised as Jane. Smarter and stronger than the other kids, there was always something different about her and she’s bullied relentlessly throughout childhood by her peers but remains unbowed and as an adult (now played by the fantastic Sarah Snook) she enlists in the SpaceCorps, a swinging Sixties government agency charged with recruiting intelligent virgins to service bored, horny astronauts on long space missions, where she catches the eye of the enigmatic Mr Robertson (Noah Taylor). Flunking out of the programme after a fight with one of the other girls, Jane meets a mysterious older man, is swept off her feet and set on the heartbreaking path that will physically and mentally transform her from Jane to John, the Unmarried Mother.

But there’s more to the Barkeep (Ethan Hawke) than meets the eye. A time traveling Temporal Agent who prevents crimes before they can occur, the Barkeep offers the Unmarried Mother the chance to rewrite history…

Adapting Robert Heinlein’s classic short story All You Zombies to the screen, mixing popcorn action with a heartbreaking study of identity, a noirish mystery with a tender, if slightly twisted, love story, to produce a thrilling, intelligent, satisfying, truly adult slice of sci-fi aimed at grown ups, the Spierigs have created a nimble, dazzling, headscratcher of a movie that’s fresh, original and kills the time travel genre stone dead because after Predestination, filmmakers better have something damn good up their sleeve: as Big Arnie says in Total Recall “This is the best mindfuck yet!”

Shot Down Under, the Australian Spierigs create a plausible alternate world that feels like America, that feels like home, evoking the look and feel of each decade the protagonists visit, embracing and celebrating the paradoxes at the heart of their tale while grappling with some pretty big philosophical questions about the desire for acceptance, the nature of love, capricious fate, the fluidity of identity. And as they already proved with their cult vampire Daybreakers (which also starred Hawke) they’re no slouches when it comes to action.

In what is more or less a two-hander, Predestination stands or falls by its actors. Hawke has rarely been better, sympathetic, ambiguous and slightly mentally unhinged, his nameless time cop is a man who’s spent too long staring into the abyss, not just one life but many written across his weary, once beautiful, haggard face. But the film belongs to the wonderful Sarah Snook who’s simply mesmeric, giving a fantastic, subtle performance convincing whether as Jane (looking a lot like Peggy in Mad Men) experiencing that first flush of love or as John standing naked before a mirror, fascinated by his new genitalia or as the more grizzled, cynical Unmarried Mother with a smoke-roughened voice and the face of Leonardo DiCaprio just before he got puffy. Most critics may be up in arms that David Oyelowo has been snubbed of a Best Actor Oscar nomination; me, I think the phenomenal Sarah Snook’s been robbed.

Intelligent, poignant and thrilling, Predestination is a trip. Strap yourself in and enjoy it! And punch in the face anyone who tells you they saw the final twist coming!

Movie Review: Predestination
5.0Overall Score
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