Predestination (2014)
January 13, 2015 7:25 AM - Subscribe

In this Australian sci-fi thriller, a strange, surly man takes a seat at a bar in 1975 NYC. He makes a bet with the bartender that his story will be the most incredible he has ever heard. What unfurls is a twisting tale of gender, destiny, and identity. The bartender (Ethan Hawke) has a story of his own.

Based on the Robert Heinlein story "---All You Zombies---" this Australian sci-fi film was directed my Michael and Peter Spierig.

iMDb's plot description (which spoils much of the first half of the movie) is "A temporal agent (Ethan Hawke) embarks on a final time-traveling assignment to prevent an elusive criminal from launching an attack that kills thousands of people."
posted by DirtyOldTown (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The way the paradoxes stack up in the end is kind of bananas, but I guess that is part of the point. It ends up being a rather clever little movie, with interesting things to say about gender. I hope more MeFites see it and check in. Even people who don't like it may very well have a great deal to say about it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:26 AM on January 13, 2015

I thought it was a fun movie, but I felt like I saw most of the twists coming from a mile away. I like that it creates a closed loop of time, even though it doesn't make a lick of sense.
posted by graventy at 7:32 AM on January 13, 2015

They should have resisted the urge to use the song, "I'm My Own Grandpa." That was a bit over the top in telegraphing things.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:33 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I spotted that it was "All You Zombies" ten minutes just after they showed him behind the bar. My girlfriend, who is a huge Heinlein fan didn't know the story. So I got to sit with glee and watch it unfold. Basically anything to do with the bomber is added in to pad out the short story into a film. And that's absolutely forgivable. It's a near perfect adaptation. And it only highlights just how economical the short story is; it tells a grand story in a concise, breathless arc.
posted by Catblack at 7:58 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

So there's that moment when Ethan Hawke sees himself when he was Sarah Snook and thinks back to how miserable and betrayed she felt when her lover knocked her up and abandoned her and he realizes for the first time (because he can't recognize his own face because reasons) that back-in-time him IS THAT VERY CAD!

...and you can tell it's Heinlein because his reaction is "Oh, well, that it's me going back to in time to have sex with myself and abandon myself makes it all better! My crosstime masturbation-incest-whatever-you-call-this-horror will work out fine in the end!" and not "What? What? What? I did what and came from what? Fuck this timeline, I'm becoming a monk."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

In the prequel, someone tells Jane to go fuck herself.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I thought Sarah Snook was amazing. After watching Predestination, I looked up her IMDB page and realized she was in another film I had recently watched, Jessabelle. She's got a sort of Toni Collette thing going on where she completely disappears into her characters. The film itself was very enjoyable. I thought I had the ending figured out but about halfway through after my initial guesses were correct, they kept on pushing the limits of how far they could go with it. You gotta respect that.
posted by cazoo at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Did they use "All You Zombies" by The Hooters as the credit music? If not, talk about missed opportunities.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2015

It's disappointing to hear, ROU_, that they don't deal with that better. It's a problem in the original story but easily fixable in a movie; you just have him do the initial meet before he realizes it and then become determined to Do It Right this time, preventing this iteration of hir past self from suffering the way s/he did in hir memory. That fails, as it has to under the rules in this system, and now the character realizes the futility of the struggle against what has to happen.
posted by phearlez at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2015

you just have him do the initial meet before he realizes it

That requires him to not recognize her own face. Not to mention that the whole thing requires him not to recognize that the face he's wearing now is the lover who abandoned her.

Not to mention that even "doing it right" is still fucking yourself, or your crosstime twin. Either way... eww.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:03 PM on January 13, 2015

Mm, I more meant he finds himself in the encounter when he meets her before he realizes what's going on. No, it would always be weird. But it could at least be weird and not oddly self-hostile.

As far as fucking yourself, eh. Think of it as time-shifted masturbation.
posted by phearlez at 7:11 PM on January 13, 2015

I watched this last night (partly because of this thread).

The first half had a weird tone -- mostly his recollections. It seemed stylized (intended, I think, to be consistent with the 50s SF gee-whiz worldview implicit in Heinlein's story and the choice to retain a "Space Corp" set in 1965) that was at odds with the realism elsewhere. The whole film took a strong turn toward more realism in the second half and this seemed discordant to me.

And I squirmed and was occasionally a bit angry at the transgender stuff because the film dealt with it as if this science-fictional, theoretical experience existed in a universe absent actual real people dealing with trans* issues. It's almost worse in that it touches upon things that are actual lived experiences because the context is very different and the other stuff is entirely different and, well. That's a consequence of problems with the source material, too, I guess, and so I think I question the overall decision to be so faithful to the short story.

Incidentally, I grew up reading Heinlein. SF was my favorite genre when I was a kid, and Heinlein was my favorite author. I became aware of the problems with his work as an adult, and I'm quite aware of them (and exasperated by those who won't recognize them) but I have enough retained affection that I'm far from someone who reflexively criticizes Heinlein. When I first learned of the existence of this film, I was quite excited. Because it was one of my favorite of his stories -- I hadn't read it since no later than when I was about twelve, in 1977, and so I didn't actually recall the plot, but I've always remembered its existence, the ending, and that I was fond of it.

Anyway, with regard to the "ewww", I guess I understand why people have this instinctive reaction, and I raised my eyebrows several times while watching the film, but generally I question it. I've become more inclined over the years to understand that we change as people over time and therefore in some very real sense, the person I was seven years ago is a different person than I am today. And if we were talking about the seven years from 19 to 26? I'd be very different people.

And, of course, Jane goes through a physical and psychological transformation that goes far beyond what most of us experience ever.

But, not only that, the narrative itself provides a lot of reasons for why such a love affair would be plausible. Jane has always been extremely isolated, she's felt very different from everyone else and, eventually, even before her transformation, she has essentially disengaged from everyone else. So I think that it makes more sense to think of that couple as very much being two distinctly different people who have really good reasons to fall in love. People fall in love for many different reasons, but the combination of being both very similar and very dissimilar is a pretty powerful one.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Being different people doesn't make it not eww. I mean, siblings are entirely different people and when a brother gets his sister pregnant I'm happy to think that's icky. And they're at least that close. Or, rather, Jane is that close to John since he knows her inside out because he was her, while John is a stranger to Jane. It's like some weird noncommutative twinhood where Twin A is the full sibling of Twin B but not the other way around. It's even creepier because John seems to pretty much manipulate Jane into loving him by feeding her the answers he knows, with complete certainty, she wants.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:15 PM on January 14, 2015

"It's like some weird noncommutative twinhood where Twin A is the full sibling of Twin B but not the other way around. It's even creepier because John seems to pretty much manipulate Jane into loving him by feeding her the answers he knows, with complete certainty, she wants."

I totally agree with that. In fact, that manipulative and intensely dishonest aspect of the relationship is much more disturbing to me than what you object to. It's really a violation.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:42 AM on January 15, 2015

Yeah there's no possible interpretation of it that involves informed consent. I think there's room to mine a lot of interesting stuff here about fate, memory, obligation or, even, could we say... predestination? But unquestionably Jane is misused and arguably Hawke's character in 1975 is as well by his future self who sets it up.

And fair enough - characters don't have to be good or likeable to be worth our time. We don't live under the Hayes code anymore so they don't even have to suffer consequences. But they do need to be plausible and if we don't like them we need to at least be interested in spending time with them for some other reason.
posted by phearlez at 9:48 AM on January 15, 2015

I enjoyed this; somehow I'd made it out of a childhood steeped in the Big Three authors without ever reading "All You Zombies" and had no idea until the end that it was based on a Heinlein short story. It definitely made all the Space Corps stuff more understandable, because that seemed like just completely out of left field in the movie (which was otherwise fairly "realistic" apart from the time-travel stuff).

I did think there was a bit of a plot hole in that when Jane has her reassignment surgery, it seems odd that she doesn't recognize that she now has the exact same scars that her mysterious lover had, though I guess I'm not sure what she'd do with that information once she had it.

From reading online, it looks like Fizzle Bomber stuff was tacked on by the film's writers, and I thought it actually worked out very well, though it definitely gave the ending a bit of a nihilistic tone. Can someone provide a synopsis of how the short story ends?
posted by whir at 11:47 AM on January 17, 2015

Ethan Hawke did an AMA on Reddit promoting this film, which went pretty well.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think this movie will primarily be remembered as the breakout vehicle for Sarah Snook.

But it's weird that so many reviewers and others called this a trans story!

A person who is female assigned at birth, and lives her life as female, until one day, on regaining consciousness after her traumatic childbirth/surgery, she's informed (to her absolute shock and horror) that she was born with both female and male anatomy, but while she was unconscious, she lost all her female organs for medical reasons and will now need to live as a man? Would you call that a trans story? I'd call that an intersex story!
posted by kalapierson at 9:51 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

She contains multitudes.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:58 AM on January 24, 2015

I think that trans awareness is peeking up a bit higher in the zeitgeist than usual, and people are reaching to that as a topic they know is thrown around a lot. As you pointed out, though, there is little question this would technically be an intersex story.

I'm can see the people calling this a trans story as a partial win, because at least they seem generally accepting of that. So partial credit for that, I guess, right?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:42 AM on January 28, 2015

Definitely a fine way to look at it.
posted by kalapierson at 2:57 AM on January 29, 2015

I thought the offhanded way the doctor was like "hey, you're going to be okay, this whole female to male thing is completely doable (there's even someone who wanted to do it and and they're okay) and we're going to make it work" was a good handling of it. I was expecting something more along the lines of "dear god you're a freak and we've got to fix you."

I enjoyed the movie but like most paradox movies I try not to actually think about it.

Snook was really good and I appreciate that Ethan Hawke always seems game for independent trippy sci-fi.
posted by M Edward at 12:03 PM on February 12, 2015

a good handling of it

I did love that he nervously had to light a cigarette first, though -- so perfectly of the time
posted by knownassociate at 6:20 AM on February 22, 2022

The thing I'm curious about -- but definitely won't watch again to figure out -- is when does the movie think you understand each aspect of the story.

Because I thought the whole thing was fully telegraphed from the very start (why else would it have insisted that the main character -- whose face you don't get to see beforehand in the prologue -- has now been given a new face and a new voice?). And so if you're watching for that, for where that trick is going to play out, you'll see right away that Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke seem to have the same lighter in their first scene together, and then the pieces just keep on falling into place and confirming it.

But eventually it finally reaches a point where it seems like the movie is filling that in for anyone who missed it from the get go, and Ethan Hawke straight up admits the whole thing to Sarah Snook just before Sarah Snook disappears from their younger self's life.

And yet...the movie ends with a flash-flash-flicker-flash reveal of that relationship again, with a whoa-we're-blowing-your-mind music cue that suggests you weren't even supposed to get it when Ethan Hawke admitted it twenty film minutes earlier? Totally bizarre.

(Also noting down that I guess this movie takes place in a world in which the medical community bothered to figure out competent -- and fully functional! -- phalloplasty in the 60s. I couldn't tell if the people making this realized how counterhistorical that aspect was.)
posted by nobody at 4:13 PM on February 7

Came to this reading about Sarah Snook performing 26 roles in a single performance of The Picture of Dorian Gray and this being a harbinger of her scary talent. They were right; she was excellent.

Also: here's a timeline for the original heinlein book
posted by lalochezia at 9:13 PM on February 17

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