Predestination (Fantasia Review)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A time-travelling lawman, or rather “temporal agent” (Ethan Hawke) tries to prevent a terrorist bombing.

REVIEW: To those of you reading this review, I don’t blame you for no doubt thinking that my plot synopsis is pretty bland. Sounds a little “been there, done that” doesn’t it? TIMECOP, SOURCE CODE, and other films all had pretty much the same plot, but let me assure you, you’ve never seen anything like PREDESTINATION.

Based on a short story by none other than Robert Heinlein, this is without a doubt one of the most off-the-wall, thought-provoking sci-fi thrillers I’ve seen in a long time. While I’ve long been a fan of the Spierig Brothers (the Aussie auteurs behind UNDEAD & DAYBREAKERS) this is most definitely their finest film, and something that could redefine their careers, provided that enough people see it.

The Fantasia audience seemed to be absolutely blown away by it, but this is really one of those films that can’t be analyzed too much in a review, as the best way to see it is to go in only knowing the bare essentials. In a way this reminded me of Alex Proyas’ DARK CITY in that it tells a similarly bold, epic sci-fi tale on a small canvas, while never feeling limited by its budget or lack of Hollywood pyrotechnics. What makes it pop is the creativity of the Spierig’s, who’ve made a sci-fi epic that blurs the line between gender, time, and fate in a way that’s thought-provoking, but also surprisingly bulletproof as far as nitpicking audiences go, with the premise clearly having been elaborated upon by the directors until it was virtually free from holes.

Like many films that feature some kind of twist, it’s relatively easy to figure out (I had the whole plot mapped out within a half-hour), but shock value isn’t this movie’s only raison d’être. It’s anchored by two exceptional performances from star Ethan Hawke and Aussie newcomer Sarah Snook. Hawke – having previously worked with the duo on DAYBREAKERS – feels like the perfect hero for a relatively elevated sci-fi thriller, capable of both the occasional fight scene and gun battle, as well as the quieter, more emotionally driven scenes. However, for much of the film he takes a back seat to Snook, with a good 40% of the movie devoted to her character’s back-story, during which the terrorist plot is back-burnered. What’s really impressive is that her story and performance are so compelling that you won’t even care (in fact – one fellow critic told me this was his favourite part of the film).

Again though, to give much more away would be doing the audience a huge disservice. Even taken as mere entertainment, PREDESTINATION is tremendously effective, working in multiple genres, and succeeding at all of them. It’s simultaneously a thriller, action movie, sci-fi flick, time travel romance, and more. To me, this feels like one of the true finds of the Fantasia Film Festival, and more than anything I’ve seen so far this year, feels worthy of a large-scale commercial release. Given how technically polished it is, with sparse but well-done effects, and a very atmospheric Hans Zimmer-style score by co-director Peter Spierig, this feels like big studio release. Given the right marketing hook, this could be a sleeper. Hopefully it’ll get the attention it’s due. That said, even if it doesn’t, do what you must to somehow check this out, as PREDESTINATION really is a gem.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.