Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button

Feature


A 'Temporal Agent' (Ethan Hawke) is sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career and stop a temporal criminal known as the Fizzle Bomber. Now, on his final assignment, the Agent poses as a bartender in 1970s New York, where meets a man named ‘John’ (Sarah Snook) who relays his entire life story over drinks and a game of pool. (from Sony’s original synopsis, but altered to censor the massive spoilers)

 Predestination
Peter and Michael Spierig, usually referred to as the Spierig Brothers, aren’t speedy filmmakers. Since their 2003 feature debut, Undead, the Australian directing duo has only produced three films. Neither Undead, a plucky zombie comedy with a charming alien subplot, or its belated follow-up, Daybreakers (2010), a dystopian action thriller about a world run by vampires, were about as good as their high concepts promised, but the Brothers remain interesting filmmakers, thanks to their commitment to new ideas. Even when the movies don’t work out (both films run out of steam prior to flaccid final acts), they instill confidence in the Spierig’s future output. They just need to work the kinks out. Their latest film, Predestination, is a time paradox story and not their most unique work, but is definitely more of the high concept, Twilight Zone-inspired speculative fiction I’d like to see more of.

The Spierigs’ script is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 short story, All You Zombies (a title that was likely changed due to the changing etymology of the word ‘zombie’ since 1959). It’s a busy story that introduces an almost overwhelming amount of different plotlines and ‘rules’ concerning the future technologies in a brief first act. However, with the guidelines set, the story flow is actually pretty smooth, even when the Brothers get themselves a bit too entwined in chronology -– i.e. flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks. I’m sure the script and finished film went through a million editing changes to arrive at the mostly coherent final product presented here. In the end, the story balance is weighted perhaps too heavily towards telling Jane/John’s traumatic back-story, but this sci-fi-lite, coming of age middle act features the best filmmaking and acting in the film. The heady stuff is saved for the last 30 or so minutes, where it unravels pretty quickly.

 Predestination
It’s really difficult, possibly even impossible, to create a time travel story that some poor, unimaginative sap will pick apart until it’s no fun anymore. This is why the most successful stories use time travel as a backdrop for their characters and narrative themes. Most recently, Rian Johnson engaged in pulpy temporal action while quietly meditated on the essence of family and the meaning of freewill when he made a similarly noir-inspired Looper. We could also argue about Predestination’s chronological structure, which doesn’t quite work out, but it’s more important that it manages to tell a familiar type of story on a personable and engaging level. Despite energy wasted while anticipating a mostly predictable final twist within the first ten minutes (…the Spierigs keep inching closer to sticking a landing), the dramatic themes do offset logic holes considerably. I’m unfamiliar with Heinlein’s original story (this version certainly evokes the same politically creepy influences as Starship Troopers) and, as such, found Predestination a thoroughly unique narrative experience, even when the Spierigs are recalling popular sci-fi and film noir motifs.

The Spierigs’ films have always been very ambitious in terms of their imagery. Undead had attempted large-scale CG effects and apocalyptic destruction on a million Australian dollars and, for Daybreakers, the production crafted convincing futuristic environments tinged by ‘30s/’40s noir influences for about $20 million. There’s some of that anachronistic, future-meets-past fashion on display here. Sets, locations, costumes, and props blend period appropriate technologies (based on whichever time period the Temporal Agent is traveling back to) are mixed and matched between ‘60s pop fashions, Brutalist and Deco architecture, and gothic lighting. Predestination is a step up from the elaborate worlds of Daybreakers, because it presents a number of interlocking worlds, each with a realistic slant – on a fraction of the budget.

 Predestination

Video


Predestination was shot using Arri Alexa digital HD cameras and is presented on this Blu-ray in 1080p, 2.40:1 video. Daybreakers was mostly shot on 35mm, but did integrate Panavision Genesis digital scenes and was so heavily graded in post that the Spierigs and cinematographer Ben Nott might as well have worked in exclusively in the format already. Predestination is a fine looking film and the artistry behind its deco/gothic images looks fantastic. Details are perfectly cut, deep-set patterns are busy, and textures are rich. Sometimes, the heavy sharpness creates minor haloes around the hardest black edges, but digital noise is minimized, even during deep-dark night shots. The colour schemes are lively and vivid. Palettes change from location to location and time period to time period, all while maintaining a basic continuity of orange or blue. The pure, vibrant base hues are supported by steady blacks and eclectic collection of red, green, and yellow highlights. Hue blends are impressive, specifically in the softly-lit warm interiors.

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack meets expectations for this type of film. Some environments have a big, futuristic vibe, but the track excels when shifting subtlety between the ambience of dry, natural environments. The channels shift and buzz without drawing a lot of attention to specific speakers. There isn’t really any big action spectacle, which leaves the time-shifts as the key highlight. Bassy and abrupt bangs are followed by a suction of silence that muffles all sound for a couple of seconds, similar to the ear-ringing effect during the bomb explosions in Saving Private Ryan. The dialogue track is centered and clear, but does suffer a couple of awkward transitions between off-screen narration and on-screen performance. The musical score, provided by Peter Spierig himself, is a mix of LFE-throbbing techno pieces and mournful piano cues that tend to fill out the stereo and surround channels in place of more abrasive sound effects.

 Predestination

Extras


  • Outtakes (1:40, HD)
  • A Journey Through Time (4:30, HD) – A brief EPK
  • All You Zombies: Bringing Predestination to Life (1:16:30, HD) – An intensive, ten-part, behind-the-scenes documentary that includes:
    • Introduction
    • Casting
    • Pre-Production
    • Photography: Weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
    • Post Production


 Predestination

Overall


Predestination is a nice surprise and easily the most mature and accomplished work yet from Australia’s Spierig Brothers. Some viewers will be disappointed that it has very little in common with the Brothers’ more action and horror heavy-features while others will want to waste time poking holes in the time travel chronology, but the strong characters are strong, the beautiful imagery, and fantastic performances were enough for me to overlook odd bits of unbalanced storytelling. Sony’s Blu-ray looks gorgeous, sounds suitably subtle, and features an extensive, feature-length, behind-the-scenes documentary.

 Predestination

 Predestination
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


Links: