The time-travel thriller Predestination, is already gaining a cult status, and it's easy to see why. This movie takes the most famous story about time paradoxes and elevates it to a great psychological study. And it features one of the most powerful performances we've seen in ages.
Predestination is very closely based on the short story "All You Zombies" by Robert A. Heinlein, which is probably the most emblematic story of time-travel-related causal loops ever written. In "All You Zombies," a bartender meets a younger man who recounts a bizarre story of tragic romance, involving a mysterious stranger, a missing baby and an involuntary gender reassignment surgery. And it just gets stranger from there.
In a nutshell, the core idea of Heinlein's story is, "What if someone was their own mother and father?" And Heinlein goes through a lot of amusingly weird plot gyrations to make this premise work, creating a story that closes its own loop with no loose ends.
The movie version, written and directed by the Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers), hews very close to the Heinlein story, while adding a brand new subplot and a whole lot of thriller-movie tropes. But more importantly, the movie adds a lot more emotional realism and connective tissue to Heinlein's zany tale, and features powerful performances by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook.
The movie version picks up the absurdity of Heinlein's story and adds a lot of weight to it, creating an ultimately tragic and bitter portrait of someone who is trapped inside a cosmic joke. The freedom to move through time, and navigate history the way regular people walk down the street, actually forms the bars of this person's prison, and the temporal paradox at the center of the film doesn't just remove John/Jane's free will, it also turns his/her life into an inescapable trap.
Anybody who's interested in seeing time-travel done well, with a great deal of internal consistency and cleverness, should definitely make time for Predestination. And fans of Heinlein will be over the moon.
But those aren't the main reasons to watch Predestination — the main reason is that Sarah Snook, who plays both male and female versions of the same character, is absolutely captivating and lends a poignancy to every scene she's in. (Check out our interview with Snook about the unique challenges of this film.) Snook constantly seems on the edge of insane rage, even before her character becomes the victim of a cruel twist of fate.