Effective time travel films must be able to set clear, established rules and be a means of achieving greater, emotional weight . Without the two, a film can be eviscerated by plot holes or become an unruly, empty spectacle. Predestination, an adaptation of an Robert A. Heinlein’s short story, “”—All You Zombies—”,” effectively coopts time travel and musings on fate and identity by anchoring the film emotionally with a stellar performance by Sarah Snook.
The film follows a temporal agent’s (Ethan Hawke) mission to stop the Fizzle Bomber from having killed thousands in 1975. After a failed attempt, he is sent back to recruit John (Sarah Snook), a person born intersex and having started out as a woman, Jane, before a tragedy struck. The story focuses mainly on Jane’s emotional journey through various struggles with her own identity. Whether as an orphan, a woman in the 1940s, or an intersex individual, Jane struggles to come to terms with her own self. Jane’s life become the emotional core of the film, breathing life into a trope-filled genre.
The film is paradoxically both stylistic as well as barebones. Temporal agents hop via a pedantically named device in the form of a violin case, and the effects itself are minimal but still satisfy. This is not a typical time travel thriller nor a brilliant, nuanced allegory, but something in between.
Although the twist will shock and amuse, it is the gradient performance by Sarah Snook in transforming Jane into John that sets an otherwise shallow film apart. Science fiction allows people to grapple with difficult and often nebulous themes, and although not perfect, Predestination does just enough to stand out in its dealings with time, fate, and identity.