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He Said, She Said Review Site

Predestination

What She said:

She

The She felt as though she could not properly review this movie without revealing some – ok all of the major plot points. There are major spoilers in this review. If you don’t care or have seen the movie, have at it. If you want to avoid spoilers, the He’s review will be a little less revealing.

There were several moments in the 2015 sci-fi thriller Predestination where I wondered, “Where is this all going?” The film is slow to develop, and you kind of keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, almost to the point where I was starting to get a little impatient. And when that shoe does finally hit the ground, this film kind of conceptually runs away from you at warp speed.

Predestination

We’re introduced to an unnamed barkeep played by Ethan Hawke who has only been on the job for about two weeks. In walks another unidentified character, a transgendered person who is currently going by the name of John. The barkeep strikes up a conversation with John, seemingly intentionally, but injects a degree of banter that makes you think there’s a genuine interest. From there a bet is thrown out. The barkeep will give John a bottle of alcohol if he can tell him a story that’ll truly blow him away. This is where things really get interesting.

John goes all the way back to his childhood. He started life as Jane, a young orphan who grows into a bright and talented, albeit alienated, young woman. She is recruited into some sort of top secret women’s space program, but unfortunately is disqualified when she falls pregnant and it is found that she possesses both female and male reproductive organs. During the birth, irreparable damage is done to Jane’s uterus, and so the hospital decides to reassign her as male and keep the male sex organs instead, even though she has always identified as female. Well, between the loss of her future promise, and the gender reassignment, Jane, now known as John, finds himself underwhelmed with life. It is alluded to that he will become a serial bomber responsible for mass casualties.

Predestination

It is then that the barkeep reveals himself as a time traveler and says that he’d like to recruit John. They go back in time to the moment in John’s life that changed everything, when Jane meets the man that she would briefly have a fling with and would become pregnant from. In what can only be an honest effort to make my mind explode, the man who impregnates Jane turns out to be John from the future. That’s right, John goes back in time and gets himself pregnant. I forgot to mention that the baby that she gives birth to is stolen from the hospital by a mysterious man. It is revealed that the mysterious fella is the barkeep/temporal agent, who goes back in time and leaves the baby on the steps of an orphanage. Yes, the baby is baby Jane. So Jane is John, and John impregnates Jane, who gives birth to Jane and future John. And they’re all going to grow up to become a serial bomber. Ok, head is throbbing, nose is bleeding, brain cannot handle anymore.

If you’re as confused as I am, then I don’t blame you. It makes absolutely no sense, and I stopped trying to piece things together into something remotely logical. Then again, I guess the plot here doesn’t need to be logical because it all hinges on time travel, something that, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t even exist. But this is sci-fi and so it doesn’t have to all make perfect sense. I think what bothers me here is that the paradox is so great that I’m having trouble tying it all in to what is supposed to be a major piece to this puzzle—stopping the terrorist from striking again. But I guess the main notion here is the complex idea of predestination and “nature finding a way.” It seems like no matter what change is made, the end result is always the same, and that’s the frustration that the barkeep encounters.

Predestination

So, I’m going to move past the storyline before my brains totally turn to liquid and I’m rendered unable to complete this review. Let’s talk, instead, about the performances. They’re actually pretty good. Ethan Hawke is one of those actors who really takes on a variety of roles that showcase a range of talents. In that sense, I’m a fan of his. He’s also become a much more capable actor through the years. Sarah Snook, who I’ve never actually heard of before, is also quite good as Jane/John. While not entirely convincing as a man, she kind of gives off that Cate Blanchett/Tilda Swinton vibe of having the ability to conceal her actual appearance.

This film deals with some big themes and heavy ideas but it’s also not pretentious about it. I actually like the movie and found it interesting, despite not entirely believing the story or feeling too impressed with its execution. I found myself fascinated, however, and that is enough to make this watchable.

Thumbs mostly up.

What He said:

He
Predestination

Was this movie even released in theaters outside of Australia (where it was made)? I never heard of it and only randomly came across the trailer when looking for content for the site one day. I knew I wanted to see it when I saw the worlds “time travel” coupled with “reunites Ethan Hawke with the creators of Daybreakers.”  In case you can’t tell, I enjoyed Daybreakers very much. We both did, so we decided to check this unknown movie out.

Ethan Hawke plays a mysterious man from the future who works for a top secret agency that – similar to Quantum Leap – travels back in time to prevent horrible events from happening. This group has prevented many crimes and saved many lives, but one there is one criminal that has evaded them. Ethan Hawke’s character – let’s call him The Barkeep – is about to be forced into retirement, because time travel messes with one’s mind. Before he retires, he wants one last crack at catching this baddie. 

This individual is known only as The Fizzle Bomber. They don’t know anything about this person other than he or she seems to be able to time travel as well. Why do they know that? Well, it’s because the bombings occur years apart and the number of victims goes up with every attack.

Ok, so it’s the present day and The Barkeep is at the agency headquarters after his last failed attempt. He was seriously injured and required some surgery before heading back out into the field. After being patched up, he heads to 1975 and poses as a barkeep at a pub in New York; which is where one of the biggest attacks has yet to occur (but already has in The Barkeep’s future).

Predestination

One night, a guy named John walks in. Now I don’t know about you, but I can tell something is different about John (Sarah Snook) from the get go. He looks like he could be a butch woman who wears her hair short and prefers to dress like a man. The Barkeep actually mistakes John for a woman initially.

After shooting the shit for a few minutes, John makes a bet with The Barkeep. He says that if he tells the Barkeep the best story he’s ever heard, he wants a free bottle of top-shelf liquor. The Barkeep is intrigued, so he agrees.
John explains that he was born Jane. I would brag about my skills of perception, but frankly it was pretty obviously that John was not a “real” man. I don’t mean to offend anyone at all, but when someone changes sex, it can be pretty obvious.
Ok, so anyway, it turns out Jane is an orphan. She was bullied a lot for being different. She was anti-social, but very smart – a combination that can lead to one being picked on as a kid. As a result, Jane got into a lot of fights, even with boys.

As she approached adulthood, her intelligence continued to flourish. This got the attention of a man named Mr. Robertson. He works for an organization that is looking for smart, determined, and unattached women to train and send into space.  It doesn’t hurt if you are tough either. Jane excels at all of their tests and seems to be a lock to make the cut. She is dealt a big blow when she’s kicked out for fighting with some of the other girls. Mr. Robertson (Noah Taylor) promises her that he will fight to get her reinstated.

Predestination

In the meantime, Jane takes up work as a nanny and begins to take some night classes. She also supplements her income writing romantic stories for women’s magazines. One night while leaving class, she meets a man who really wows her. They hit it off and have a one night stand. Jane ends up pregnant and never sees him again.

Jane has the baby, but there are complications during the delivery. The doctors deliver the baby via cesarean. While they opened her up, the discovered that Jane was actually a hermaphrodite. Her female sex organs were severely damaged during the delivery, so they removed them and decided that they had to reassign her sex. They tell Jane that with the help of hormone therapy, she will be able to successful become a male. As you can imagine, Jane is in complete and total shock upon hearing the news.

If that isn’t terrible enough, Jane’s baby actually gets kidnapped from the hospital. She never even got to see the baby. She ends up hating the man that got her pregnant and wishes to kill him.

This is where things get interesting. The Barkeep tells John that he might be able to give him that chance for revenges he so wants. John does not understand, but The Barkeep explains that he actually works for the same organization Jane tried to get into a decade or so ago. He also tells John that he’s about to go on a mission – to catch The Fizzle Bomber – and that he’s willing to bring John along to give him his chance for revenge.

This movie is going to mess with your mind, I’m going to just put that right out there. There are things that are going to seem obvious and things you did not see coming at all. You think it’s going one way, it might be going that way (not gonna tell), but I can guarantee you it will keep you guessing right up until the very end.

I liked everything about this movie. Its good science fiction, the acting is very good, and the sets are fantastic.
Ethan Hawke and newcomer Sarah Snook (especially when you consider that character she plays) were great, as was Noah Robertson (the oddly calm man behind the agency Hawke’s character works for). It’s a well-acted movie, which is refreshing. Sometimes movies that are entertaining aren’t always the best acting-wise. It’s not a dumb, but fun action movie with barely passable performances that you excuse because of a fun premise.  It is not fluff, you are going to be intrigued by what’s going on. If you don’t find yourself trying to figure out what is happening throughout the movie, I’d be surprised. Even if you don’t like it, you’re going to be trying to solve the puzzle. I thought the makers also did an excellent job at recreating the different eras the characters were sent to. The costumes in this movie were great.

If you like science fiction, something that is going to mess with your mind, and are in the mood to give something a chance – this movie had virtually no wide-scale release – give this one a chance. I can say that I am officially a fan of the Spierig brothers and am interested to see what they cook up next.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on March 20, 2015.

Predestination