February 22, 2015 -- I had a strong sense of deja vu watching this film about a time cop trying to stop a crime from happening and altering the future. It turns out I knew what was going to happen in this movie before I saw it happen. While watching the film, I realized the story was just like a Robert Heinlein story I had read decades ago.
The short story on which the film is based was written by science fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein (“Stranger in a Strange Land,” “The Puppet Masters” and “Starship Troopers” “The Green Hills of Earth” and many other books). It was first published in 1959. “Predestination” is one of five theatrical films (as opposed to straight-to-video) based on Heinlein stories. I read the original story on which it is based “—All You Zombies—” probably in the 1960s. The story made a lasting impression.
If you haven't read the story before, it is a real brain-twister. This story introduced the kind of paradoxes which later became part of the popular culture in television and movies like “Back to the Future” and “The Terminator” series.
A time cop (a temporal agent for the temporal bureau) played by Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”) is near the end of his career of preventing crimes and acts of terrorism by traveling through time to eliminate the threats before they happen. He is given warnings that his frequent time jumps could drive him crazy, but he has one last mission, to stop a mad bomber from blowing up buildings in New York City and killing thousands of people.
He goes back in time before the bombing in 1975 and works as a bartender, where he befriends a patron, a possible temporal bureau recruit, played by Sarah Snook (“Jessebelle”) who tells him a wild story about being an intersex person, first a female, who bore a child by an unknown man, and who was later altered surgically to be a man. Her fantastic tale includes having her baby stolen from the hospital. She (later, he) never found the the baby.
The time cop listens to the story and tells the man that he will bring him to the man who stole his (her) baby. He also promises the man with an adventurous job that will enable him to make a difference in the world. The time cop then produces a small time machine and the two men are transported in time back to the time when the man was a woman and she was about to meet the mysterious man she fell in love with, and who later disappeared before her baby was born.
I can't really say much more about the story without spoiling it for those unfamiliar with this story, except that it is highly complex. Ethan Hawke is good in this film and Sarah Snook (who looks a lot like Jodie Foster) gives an exceptional performance as a repressed woman and man, who deals with a lot of disappointments in her life, and who harbors a lot of anger. Noah Taylor also gives a good performance as Mr. Robertson, the slippery director of the temporal bureau.
This is a very complex story and it is handled well by The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter) who co-wrote and co-directed the film. This might be the best of the Heinlein film adaptations. Unlike some other films made from his books, Robert Heinlein, the old master, the greatest science fiction author of the golden age of science fiction, might well have been pleased with this adaptation. This film rates a B.
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