Ethan Hawke takes us through time, and not in the usual way

Predestination is a story of inevitability and fate. Maybe. The story’s lengthy tail insinuates many things.

See, there’s a bar. In that bar is an active, time traveling temporal agent, Ethan Hawke, “The Barkeep.” In walks “The Unmarried Mother” played by Sarah Snook. Hawke is out to stop a killer, a crazed bomber set to murder 11,000 New Yorkers in 1975. Snook just wants a drink. And to tell a story.

Said story is critical. The backbone of Predestination is contained within, even if it is not obvious immediately. The film appears mired in a flashback, caught in a trap of rolling exposition from which it cannot escape. When it does back away, Predestination is enlightening fiction.

As with any time travel narrative, Predestination asks questions. It speeds forward and expedites the rules (you cannot travel too far from the zero point, 1981, for example) because they are not necessarily important. They’re more of a means to contain the story.

It is of little surprise this is a Robert A. Heinlein story, originally anyway. The embedded sci-fi is utterly alluring and the potential consequences enormous. Those wishing to solve a paradox receive a doozy.

Dialog is smart and repeat viewings make it smarter.

More than the source material, Predestination’s success is in how it’s told. The structure, which should bend the mind across seven or so different time periods, is intricately presented. Details and production design are lavish. Points in time are laced with identifiable objects, patterns, and clothes. Dialog is smart and repeat viewings make it smarter. That’s important. There is a slew of dialog, the set up often written in the form of spoken memoirs – plus a few winking references to Predestination’s wild twist.

The take away? We’re all victims to time. All that we do is inescapable. Interesting, yes, but more so in how this metaphor is ultimately revealed. This is not a film about stopping a terrorist. The box art may say so, but this is wrong. Rather, it is a film about trying to stop time and as it turns out, we can’t. Thus, personal tragedy is a result.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

In the orange and teal bar @ 45:58

Outside of the physical design, Predestination does little to impress in the space of its visuals, notably due to heavy color timing. Teal is everywhere. Many scenes are nearly monochromatic, and the bar which houses a significant portion only uses orange to break up the dullness.

A few flashback scenes escape such a penalty with primaries and accurate flesh tones. One particular time period is especially bright – the ’60s era pastels are clean.

Digitally shot, each scene will produce clarity and rich fidelity in close. Medium shots are little weaker in density if to limited detriment. Sony’s encoding is more than enough to handle this material. There is no noise or other anomaly to note.

Sharpness and black levels are key. There is extensive reliance on shadows in this feature, needing a range of depths to succeed. The bar is moody; some flashbacks are notably brighter. Either way, black levels perform. So does the sharpness too, which is held together by exceptional cinematography and mostly in rather limited locations. It’s a small film in scale.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Take note of the LFE as the film progresses. Whenever time travel is imitated, a hum is introduced on the arrival side. The more it’s used, the longer it lasts after the drop. It’s a fun way to involve story and sound. Big gunshots are the other highlight, held to an underground battle amongst a sewer-like setting. They emerge heavy and bright, ricocheting the sound in all directions. Impacts are notable in each channel.

An explosion is the only other immediate highlight. Predestination is mostly dialog otherwise, well managed and well prioritized. Ambiance is fleeting.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Predestination must have been completed almost perfectly for only one and a half minutes of bloopers, but that’s all of them apparently. A Journey Through Time is a throwaway featurette at four minutes, only becaue much of it is repeated in All Your Zombies, an 11-part making of. Clocking in at over an hour, each week of the shoot is covered, along with pre and post-production. Well done.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.