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Predestination

Released 2014. Directors: The Spierig brothers

A MYSTERY WOUND SO TIGHTLY IT'S DESIGNED TO GIVE YOU A HEADACHE. OR IF you pay close attention, Predestination will drop you into a rabbit hole where you come out the other side amazed at its intricacy and audacity.

Adapted from Richard Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies”, the Spierig brothers have made a mind-warping sci-fi the likes of which we have not seen since Inception. I recommend watching it at least twice. The first time is to let yourself be swept along in its looping, circuitous storyline. The second time is to untangle the knots and appreciate its strange yet compelling internal logic with the benefit of foreknowledge.

The first half of the movie is a lengthy set-up where a patron unspools an unusual life story to a bartender. The extraordinary tale involves a baby abandoned at an orphanage, training at a space academy, a mysterious lover, a stolen baby and a sex change.

That’s even before we get to the obsessive quest of a crime-stopping, time-travelling 'temporal agent' to find a terrorist bomber. By then the narrative has started branching out in more than one direction. The three pivotal characters – Jane, John and the baby – share a convoluted and incredible relationship that could only exist in a sci-fi world.

It’s the sort of breath-catching twist that one needs to pause a second to let it sink in. Imagine a human version of the chicken-and-egg paradox. Jane the baby grows up and as an adult gives birth to a girl who is later stolen and left at an orphanage and grows up to be the same Jane, her birth mother. The father is actually, well, the less you the better before you see the movie. Definitely needs a second viewing to unknot the mind-bending twists.

Sarah Snook is a revelation in a performance that marks her arrival on the big screen. Eerily combining the charisma of a young Leonardo DiCaprio and the intensity of Jodie Foster, Snook is the heart of this gender-blurring identity haze; and more than equipped to stand toe-to-toe with Ethan Hawke, the bartender time traveller who has his own secret. Hawke complements Snook in a duet of performances utterly absorbing and convincing.

Without over-relying on visual effects, the movie is impressive in creating a stylish shadowy look and feel with solid production design and cinematography. Destined to be a cult classic.


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