If you’re a fan of time travel in film, there are certain movies that are required viewing; Predestination is one of those movies. Watching Predestination for the first time a couple years back, it was the cinematic equivalent of love at first sight. As a testament to how much I love this film, this will be one of the rare articles I write that is completely spoiler free, because this is one of those movies that I hope people are able to experience as clean as possible the first time. It’s not that I think that spoilers “ruin” movies per se, but some movies definitely benefit more from going in with fresh eyes, and Predestination definitely falls into this category. I knew that this was going to be one of those go-to movies when I was in the mood for a film about time travel. Based on a short story from 1959 called “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein, Predestination is a perfectly constructed, tightly-paced movie that has one of the best implementations of time travel that has ever been put to film.
Time travel is a hard thing to get right in terms of the logic of how things work out and the paradoxes that result. There are some films like Back to the Future or Terminator 2 that are just so good, that audiences can ignore the minor discrepancies in the actual mechanics of time travel. There are other films like Looper and Avengers: Endgame that address the confusion resulting from time travel head on and use a meta-handwave to essentially focus less on the mechanics and more on the story that time travel makes possible. There are some films like About Time and Frequency that just clearly have no intention of trying to address the logical paradoxes that may result from time travel, and use it purely as a plot device. Then there are films like Predestination that – like the greatest time travel film of all time, Primer – don’t have to worry about addressing incongruities, because the mechanics of time travel actually follow logically, and there’s nothing to ignore or handwave.
Don’t get me wrong; I love all of the films listed above in various ways and for various reasons (well, “love” is a strong word for my feelings toward Frequency, but let’s just say it wasn’t terrible and leave it at that). But, there’s something undeniably satisfying about seeing somebody work out an incredibly different puzzle, and watching as all of the pieces slide perfectly into place. Time travel movies nearly always fall into this category, and maybe that’s part of the reason time travel is a personal favourite sci-fi sub-genre of mine. It’s one thing to make a perfect movie involving time travel; it’s another thing to make a movie perfectly about time travel. The only other film that comes immediately to mind in terms of achieving that sort of logistical mastery of time travel mechanics in addition to Primer and Predestination is Timecrimes, which is also a must-see for fans of the genre.
In addition to being one of the best time travel films of all time, Predestination is also required viewing for fans of Ethan Hawke, who I’ve come to appreciate more and more over the years. I feel like he kind of snuck in there as one of my favourite actors. I remember a couple years back going through my DVD/Bluray collection, and realizing that I owned and loved almost all of David Fincher’s films without even realizing it. I feel the same way about Ethan Hawke; one day I was going to pick out a movie to watch, and I saw that Taking Lives starred – among others – Ethan Hawke, and that was the deciding factor for me. Predestination will also have you asking why Sarah Snook, the other lead of the film, isn’t being cast in everything under the sun.
Long story short, if you can get your hands on it, Predestination is essential viewing for fans of time travel narratives, and it’s a movie that I’m not only proud to have on my shelf, but one that I will continually recommend to anybody who will listen (which is, admittedly, a very short list).