Sprinkling a terrorism subplot into an otherwise faithful adaptation 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, who previously collaborated with the Spierig brothers on the slick vampire saga Daybreakers, stars as a curiously nameless temporal agent who’s sent back to 1975 New York in order to stop the “Fizzle Bomber” from blowing up 10 city blocks. Working under the guise of a bartender, the operative immediately gets to talking with a moody patron (Sarah Snook, whose initial appearance bears an uncanny resemblance to Edward Furlong), an orphan who was booted from the Space Corps when the government learned that he (then she) was born intersex. As they chat, Lonzo and Oscar’s “I’m My Own Grandpa” wafts from the jukebox in the background—needless to say, the lives of these two strangers are more entangled than you can imagine or fully sort out.
Fitfully engaging but awkward from start to finish, Predestination bungles all sorts of potential in its attempt to balance the brains of “La Jetée” with the brawn of Timecop. Consistently 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—by the time Predestination finishes reducing her from a person to a puzzle piece, you’ll know how she feels.
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Cast and crew