Adding a terrorism subplot to an otherwise faithful version of Robert A Heinlein’s 1958 short story ‘All You Zombies’, ‘Predestination’ is a goofily fatalistic time-travel thriller so busy chasing its own tail that it loses sight of everything else.
Ethan Hawke stars as a curiously nameless time-hopping operative sent back to 1975 New York to stop the ‘Fizzle Bomber’ from blowing up 10 city blocks. Working under the guise of a bartender, he immediately gets talking with a moody patron (Sarah Snook), an orphan who was booted from the Space Corps when the government learned that he (then she) was born intersex. The lives of these two strangers are more entangled than you can imagine or fully sort out.
Fitfully engaging but always awkward, ‘Predestination’ bungles all sorts of potential in its attempt to balance the brains of Chris Marker’s landmark sci-fi film ‘La Jetée’ with the brawn of ‘Timecop’. More interested in its mechanics than its characters, the film fails to take advantage of Snook’s dazzling performance, the actor quietly heartbreaking as she untangles the story’s quantum knots with her sensitive portrayal of fluid sexual identity. Snook projects the wounded bitterness of someone the world would rather solve than understand. ‘Predestination’ reduces Snook’s character from a person to a puzzle piece, and you’ll know how she feels.