Film / Predestination

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"The snake that eats its own tail, forever and ever."

Predestination is a 2014 Australian science fiction mystery film written and directed by The Spierig Brothers. The film is based upon the 1959 short story "—All You Zombies—" by sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein, and stars Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, and Noah Taylor.

The film chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career for all eternity. On his final assignment, the Agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time and prevent a devastating attack in which thousands of lives will be lost.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The opening Bomb Disposal sequence.
  • Adaptation Expansion: While overall very faithful to the original story, the film expands the role of The Fizzle Bomber and includes him in the web of paradoxes related to the Agent.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Mr. Robertson speaks kindly of the Fizzle Bomber and how he helped their organization become better at saving lives. Lampshaded by the Barkeeper: "You sound as if you admire him".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Young Jane feels misunderstood and isolated at the orphanage and also later in life.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Jane's strange behavior in her early life remains a secret until it gets revealed that she is a Hermaphrodite.
  • Arc Words: "What if I could put him in front of you? The man that ruined your life?"
  • Bandaged Face: John, after his face gets burned in the bomb explosion.
  • Birds of a Feather: Justified. John and Jane are attracted to another for their many similarities.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Fizzle Bomber is eventually taken out of business but the organization subjected Jane to a lifetime of physical and psychological suffering and isolation to accomplish this goal.
  • Bomb Disposal: In the opening sequence, a mysterious character tries to contain one of the Fizzle Bomber's time bombs.
  • Cat Fight: Twice. First Jane fights another girl at the orphanage, then again a colleague at Space Corp. The latter event causes her to be suspended from the program. Or so she thinks; really it was her hermaphroditism that got her kicked out.
  • Celibate Hero: Jane promised herself to stay away from sex:
    Jane: I made a solemn vow that any kid of mine would have both a mom and a pop. A real family. It kept me pure. Away from temptation.
  • City Noir: Shady characters with hats and trenchcoats, a mysterious organization and cool smoking. Similar in style to the Spierig brothers previous work Daybreakers.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Invoked by Robertson and the organization who arranged for Jane to be caught in an incestuous time loop where she was her own parents and offspring, all to become a well-functioning Temporal Agent with no ties to the past or the future.
    '''You're a gift given to the world through a predestination paradox. You're the only one free from history, ancestry.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Space Corp is a recruiting front end for the secret time travel agency.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Jane/John suffered a lot in the early years. She grew up in an orphanage where she was not accepted. She was forced to change her gender against her will due to complications during her childbirth, meanwhile her baby is kidnapped from the nursery, leaving her in utter despair.
  • Dead Hat Shot: A non-lethal version. After the Bomb Disposal goes awry, there is a close-up on John's burning hat on the floor while John himself rolls around in pain.
  • Doorstop Baby: Jane. After the Barkeeper snatches her as a newborn from the nursery, he travels back in time, delivers her to the doorsteps of the City of Cleveland Orphanage and subsequently calls in to make sure the box is noticed.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The revelation that John, the Barkeeper and the Fizzle Bomber (with Robertson an unconfirmed possibility) are one and the same effectively turns the film into a Protagonist Journey to Villain.
  • Flashback: The scenes of Jane's upbringing and adolescence are presented as flashbacks.
  • Foreshadowing: Several.
    • After John gets his face reconstructed, he comments that his own mother wouldn't recognize him before chuckling.
    • The bartender's attempted joke about "What comes first, the chicken or the egg?". It foreshadows the relationship between himself, John, and Jane.
    • In the early bar scenes when the Barkeeper is talking to John, each time the camera looks at him, the angle changes slightly. Sometimes the "Gentlemen" restroom sign is over his head and sometimes it's "Ladies", foreshadowing the final plot twist.
    • When Jane's baby is snatched, John describes the snatcher having a "face shaped face like yours and mine" which is foreshadowing that they are one and the same person.
    • When the Barkeeper and John decide to work with one another, one of the bar's patrons plays "I'm My Own Grandpa" on the jukebox.
    • The Barkeeper and John accuse one another of being the Fizzle Bomber.
  • Gilligan Cut: Doubles as a False Reassurance. When the Space Corp counselor assures Jane that her colleagues will "come 'round", the scene cuts to Jane getting her face punched by one of the other girls.
  • Help Yourself in the Future: Or past. The problem of the paradox is that Jane wasn't created, she was managed. At three points of her life, three versions of her future self conspire to manage the loop. John, the Barkeep, and possibly Robertson are in fact messing with their own life, that is their past self, because if it hadn't happened that way they wouldn't exist.
  • Hermaphrodite: Jane is revealed to be one. She had internal male genitalia discovered during a cesarean section, and complications forced the doctors to supersede her external female genitalia with them.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Fizzle Bomber explains that he prevented bigger crimes from happening, but he made a monster of himself in the process.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: Space Corp officially tested women for space escorts but in reality the tests were designed to find suitable Temporal Agents.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: The Fizzle Bomber explains that if the Bartender shoots him, he will eventually become the Fizzle Bomber. If he wants to break the chain, he has to not kill him. Too bad, this situation is predestined.
  • In Medias Res: The plot starts somewhere in the middle of the time axis right before the protagonist transforms from John into the Barkeeper and follows the character from thereon forward in his life which also means going back into the past.
  • Ironic Echo: The line "What if I could put him in front of you? The man that ruined your life?" was originally addressed at John by the Barkeeper, but he uses the line again when finally facing his own nemesis, the Fizzle Bomber, his older self.
  • Irony:
    • At the beginning of the movie when he sees his new face for the first time he says "I've changed so much. I doubt my own mother would recognize me." and laughs, since he/she is his/her own mother.
    • The Barkeeper's line "We were born into this job." hints at the irony of his own birth which he personally helped to arrange using time travel.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: In the final scenes of the film, the Barkeeper finally finds the Fizzle Bomber, only to discover that it was his older self. After arguing he shoots the bomber multiple times. Given the way the film twists his life through time travel and paradox, this is almost the most normal aspect of the plot.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: John gets plastic surgery where his face is being completely replaced after getting severely burned, and his character goes from being played by Sarah Snook to being played by Ethan Hawke. There are no scars or oddities visible after the surgery wounds have healed.
  • The Men in Black: The Barkeeper encounters two of them when being briefed for his One Last Job.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The Unmarried Mother writes short stories for magazines.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: The Barkeeper empties a revolver into the Fizzle Bomber.
  • My Future Self and Me: Averted. The future versions never introduce themselves as what they are.
  • My Own Grampa: In possibly the most convoluted, mind screwing way possible. Lampshaded at the end when the Barkeeper goes back to the bar. When he says, "I quit", the song playing is "I'm my own grandpa". This song is also referenced in the short story.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When the Barkeeper offers John to try his job, the latter asks what his job was but the Barkeeper refuses to explain straight away.
    John: What is it?
    Barkeeper: I'll show you. (moving towards the backdoor)
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Downplayed. There is a short scene in which young Jane gets into a Cat Fight with another girl from the orphanage over some name calling.
  • No Name Given: The Barkeeper is never addressed by name.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: A couple of scenes are shown a second time from a different perspective which changes the meaning of the scene.
    • The opening Bomb Disposal sequence is revisited later, when we see that the Barkeeper was the mysterious man pushing the violin case towards the man on the ground who turns out to be John.
    • Both the kidnapping of baby Jane and the following Doorstop Baby dropping scenes are shown twice. The second time it is revealed that the Mysterious Stranger who snatched the baby was the Barkeeper.
    • The park bench scene where Jane's lover disappears from her life is shown again later where we learn that the mysterious lover was John, who then vanishes back to the future.
  • One Degree of Separation: The various characters are connected by zero degrees of separation.
  • One Last Job: The recruiting of John is the Barkeeper's last job before being decommissioned. Subverted when the Barkeeper's Field Kit fails to decommission, allowing him to continue time travel unsupervised.
  • One-Word Title: Predestination.
  • Ouroboros: The barkeeper refers to this concept as a parallel with how his life played out.
  • Parental Abandonment: Jane states that she missed having parents and envied other children who did.
  • Predestination Paradox: The barman remembers all the parts of the story from when they happened to him in his original timeline. He's just acting out his part now to complete the loop.
    • Also, John gets to relive the ultimate romance he once had as Jane, but this time filling in the role he remembers.
  • Screaming Birth: Jane is shown screaming like hell before the delivery of her baby.
  • Screw Yourself: Jane is made pregnant by a future version of herself who went through a sex change and came back through time.
  • Senseless Violins: Violins (called Field Kits) function as Time Travel devices.
  • Soft Glass: Young Jane breaks the glass of a car's headlight with her bare fist.
  • Stable Time Loop: We cannot say where the looping events have their beginning, foreshadowed by the chicken-and-egg and the snake-biting-its-tail talk between various characters. This also implies, as the movie title suggests, events are not possible to change for the time travelers.
  • Tempting Fate: Jane promises to herself that her baby won't have to go through the suffering of growing up in an orphanage. Guess where her newborn winds up.
  • There Are No Therapists: Jane is left alone with her mental disorder.
  • Time Machine: The violin cases are powerful time travel devices with combination locks that encode the destination time.
  • Time Police: The purpose of the secret government organization the Barkeeper works for is to prevent crimes before they can happen. Or as Robertson puts it, the agency is "reshaping wrongdoings".
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Written notes early on read "Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow." and "If at Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again."
  • Title Drop: Of the original short story "All You Zombies" in a scene towards the end where the Barkeeper has an inner monologue.
    Barkeeper: I know where I come from. But where do all you zombies come from?
  • Title-Only Opening: There are no opening credits, only the title is shown.
  • Truly Single Parent: Thanks to a Stable Time Loop and being a hermaphrodite, the female protagonist was impregnated by a sex-changed future version of herself.
  • The Watson: John, when being introduced to to time travelling. He constantly asks questions about the concept and the Barkeeper is more than happy to play Mr. Exposition.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Fizzle Bomber suggests this to the Barkeeper, who refuses the offer quite assertively.
  • Wham Line: To John from the Barkeeper, after John realizes he is the man who ruined Jane's life.
    The Barkeeper: You know who she is, and you understand who you are, and now maybe you're ready to understand who I am. You see, I love her too.
  • Wham Shot: Immediately after the Wham Line, the film cuts to the Barkeeper with his shirt open, revealing the exact same scars as John.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Predestination