Friday, 18 September 2015


Fizzle Puzzle

Australia 2014
Directed by The Spierig Brothers
Sony Pictures All Region Blu Ray

A friend of mine recommended that I see this movie and now, thinking about it, I think I did see it trailered last year and was waiting for it to come around to my local cinema... but I don’t think it turned up in my neck of the woods. Which is a shame because I’m always into time travel stories and he was right, I did enjoy this one. It also proves my much aired theory that modern day Hollywood are plundering old 1950s sci-fi short stories as either direct source or inspiration for a lot of the movies being made over the last ten years or more in that this one is a strong adaptation of a 1958 Robert A. Heinlein short story called “All You Zombies”... which is one I’ve not read. Since there aren’t any zombies in this story though, because the context is different to what modern cinema audiences would expect from a title like that, it’s been wisely, I think, changed to Predestination. 

Now it’s hard to talk about this movie without giving huge spoilers and I was in two minds about whether to include those or not. On the one hand, as you go through the movie you can work out what’s coming next and I got to about twenty minutes into the movie and I pretty much knew 90% of the reveals and, certainly by the time they’d arrived, I’d already figured out the other ones. That being said, there’s something to be said for the kind of enjoyment one gets from working things out as you go along and, since being a time travel story makes it almost a requisite to have a temporal twist in the tale, the majority of the audience are going to want to dig in and figure it out before the end anyway. That’s part of the fun.

So I guess that means I’ve got to somehow continue reviewing this without any spoilerage.

So what can I tell you about this then? Well, it’s a story about a time travelling secret agent who is trying to stop a ‘time terrorist’ throughout history known as The Fizzle Bomber. There, you see? Even revealing that much about the plot has already given you your first suspicion of what the ending might entail without me even going into details... which is the problem with these kinds of stories. Luckily, however, the various twists and turns of the narrative are such that the film works out as a kind of series of Russian dolls of a plot line. The things you think are the important reveals start becoming less and less important as the story unfolds and more and more like everything is chasing its own tale... which is kinda the point, I guess. This film has a real Ouroboros of a story line and really does follow its own rear end to an extent that lovers of time travel stories will, probably, hugely embrace. It mixes the temporal elements with another element which I really can’t tell you about without major spoilerage and then uses that to both mask and maintain the self reflexivity of the ultimate paradox which lies at the heart of the solution of this movie. A solution which does, of course, mean we are both privy to the tail wagging the dog and the huge anomaly in logic that this manages to create.

Okay... so this is why I can’t say much about the plot here guys. You will work out what’s going on but, hopefully, it will all work like layers of an onion for you once you realise that each question raised becomes less important than the next and hopefully, you won’t be waiting too long for a certain character in this film to catch up with the solution. Either way, though, it’s a nicely put together ride and I really didn’t mind that the end result was, by the end of the movie, a bit obvious.

We also have three actors who really nail this movie headed up by the always watchable Ethan Hawke, who was in the last Spierig Brothers movie, Daybreakers. He is ably supported by Noah Taylor, who I always think is great, and an actress called Sarah Snook who... well...believe me, if this movie wasn’t perceived as ‘a sci-fi movie’, she would have been a shoe in for an oscar here. She has a much more difficult job than any of the other actors here and once you get the spin of just the first of many of the tricks of her character, you will realise just what an incredible job she is doing in this movie... a lot of the first half of which is told as a series of flashbacks via a conversation in a bar. The answer to all the riddles and conundrums the plot throws at you, and it’s up to you to decide just how many really are being pitched your way, relies a lot on her brilliant performance here and her character is very much the main protagonist of the film... I think it’s safe to say.

There’s some nice visual stuff going on here too. There are some beautiful compositions and there are some bold and absolutely striking colour choices which, while they aren’t the same palette throughout (the opening sequences pitch blue against orange for example, before moving into something completely different), seem to be sticking to mostly two dominant colours per sequence, over the course of the story. I’d like to think that this basic colour choice was an attempt for the directors to synaesthetically gel with certain elements of the story but I’m never going to know about that one, I’m sure... due to the reason that it might not be something desirable to reveal during an interview about this one. Whatever the motivation for this element, however, it certainly works a treat and pushes the film up to an artistic level which it might not have achieved without such a rigid aesthetic principle in place.

The one thing which did mislead me about the movie is the existence of a specific “space comfort” agency... which is basically a way of training women to travel and ‘bond’ with men who go into space (yeah, it’s basically government sponsored prostitution). It’s presented as a historical fact in the movie and it did make me wonder if the audience are being shown some kind of parallel universe specific to the world of the movie... and I guess in a way that’s true. However, when I saw in the end credits that it was based on a 1950s Robert A. Heinlein story, it all made perfect sense. This was speculative fiction of an organisation that Heinlein obviously thought ‘could’ exist in his future and the directors were merely being respectful of his material... and it does give the film a nice little fantasy element it wouldn’t have had if they’d have changed little details like this, it has to be said.

So yeah, that’s me done on Predestination, I think. It gets to be damned obvious over the course of the running time but the writers/directors did well to mask the full extent of the solution in the less linear bits of narrative for as long as they did when dealing with a specific kind of time travel concept which is almost the grand-daddy of temporal conundrums, to be fair. And the ride is worth it too because it’s a brilliant movie, well acted by amazing performers and edited in such a way that it can happily jump around all over the place and you don’t have to be worried about getting “lost in time” yourself as you marry up all the visual data to figure out who is doing something or, more importantly, when they are doing something. A definite watch for fans of science fiction and, if sci-fi isn’t really your thing, then that just makes it all the more easier for you to play the puzzle game with it. Really glad I saw this one and that I have friends who are able to twig me enough to recommend this kind of stuff to me. Definitely give this one a go.

No comments:

Post a Comment