3 stars
Calling yourself the so and so Brothers when presenting as a double act - as Australian film makers Michael and Peter Spierig have always done - gives you almost instant cinematic cred. Just think of the Coen Brothers (although before them there was the even more arty Taviani Brothers in Italy).
Anyway, the Spierigs (Daybreakers) have carved out a nice little niche in the Australian scene making mostly horror or fantasy films. Their 2003 Undead was a pretty effective rollicking zombie effort which showed talent and ingenuity.

This one is a bit of departure for them which is fair enough. One feels though that some of their fans may be disappointed by this attempt to make a sci-fi thriller complete with mixed genre touches. The film concerns a ‘temporal agent’ (Ethan Hawke - Before Midnight) who when he is not hopping around time periods trying to avert crimes that have been predestined, is a barman in a dingy downtown bar. The film’s palette is dominated by sepia tones which lend a certain old fashioned tone to suit the period-stretching set ups.

The problem with time travel movies is that there are now just so many of them. One is tempted to say that they are almost bound to happen and, er, to repeat themselves. This one, based on the writings of an esteemed sci-fi author, will inevitably call to mind films based on similar conceits of time travelling policemen. Looper (2012) is the closest parallel but there are half a dozen films floating around the same theme. Still, it is not just about been totally original as genre films are often necessarily judged by different criteria.

The execution of the film just feels a bit clunky despite the best efforts of a normally good cast. Noah Taylor (who was himself on similar territory with the recent Edge of Tomorrow) once again brings his quirky and highly watchable persona. The female lead is Aussie actress Sarah Snook. She may be this year’s Mia Wasikowska (Tracks) as she is credited as being in no less than 6 films all made within the last year. Viewers might remember her deliberately ugly performance as the mad party-goer in the recent apocalyptic Western Australian film These Final Hours. Snook is an acquired taste, and though she does her best there are some aspects of the script that would be beyond almost any actress. No spoilers here because any attempt to really detail the plot and its endless reversals would risk giving too much away.

Hawke is another actor who borders on the workaholic. This film was apparently made in the same year as four other films including Richard Linklater’s astonishing Boyhood which is perhaps where his real energies went in 2014. Hawke does his best with what he is given but the long scenes with Snook, which are so crucial to the success of the whole film, just never get beyond looking well-rehearsed and spoken rather than acted.

It’s not a bad film per se but you can’t help feeling that inside this package is an even better film screaming to get out.


Previewed at The Reelroom, Sydney on 28 July 2014

Ethan Hawke
Noah Taylor
Sarah Snook
Freya Stafford

Michael Spierig
Peter Spierig

Michael Spierig
Peter Spierig



97 minutes

August 28, 2014
Predestination (2014) on IMDb