A man carrying a violin case walks into a basement room and makes straight for a device connected to a timer that is counting down to zero. He manages to get the insides of it out, but before he can complete his mission a figure appears from the shadows and takes a shot at him with a pistol, wounding the man in the shoulder. A short skirmish ensues, where he manages to get the device into a container only for it to explode before it can be sealed, setting him on fire and ruining his face. Before his attacker can finish him off, he grabs his case and presses a button on it - and disappears, for this man is a time traveller and has returned to his own point of origin. Seriously injured, he's going to need a whole new face and weeks in recovery before he can carry on his mission...
And when he gets his new face his mother wouldn't know him since he looks like Ethan Hawke, in another example of his interesting position in cinema by the stage he was appearing here as while he wasn't an A-list star anymore, if he ever had been, he was recognisable enough to be hired by some interesting directors for celebrity wattage and the guarantee he wouldn't let them down with his dependable performances. Hawke was assuredly the most famous person in this science fiction effort from Australian genre toilers the Spierig Brothers, and he had starred in their previous work as well, proving it was a good idea as an actor to keep in touch with promising talent as their movies showed up with large gaps in between as they developed them and tried to raise funding; they hadn't forgotten Ethan.
And he was rewarded with a role that was nothing if not unusual, mainly thanks to its basis in a celebrated Robert A. Heinlein short story, All You Zombies, from the late nineteen-fifties. He was a giant in the field of science fiction, but held a curious position as a pioneer for he came across as an essentially conservative man entertaining the wildest notions he could conceive of, which included some areas his adherents would probably wish he had either toned down or left unexplored altogether. However, in the author's pushing back of boundaries specifically in the field of sexuality, he happened upon the issue of transgenderism with this yarn, which made for a surprisingly contemporary tale, likely inspired by the then-renowned transgender woman, Christine Jorgensen.
She had already had a movie made about her in 1970, which was something of a well-meaning laughing stock, but if you wanted to see a far more sensitive handling of the subject set in the framework of a mindbending science fiction plot, then look no further than Predestination. This was also the reason Hawke didn't get it all his own way when it came to the acting plaudits, for his co-star was Sarah Snook, an Australian actress expertly taking the female lead - or actually the male lead since she was playing a female to male transsexual. Rather than crafting some dry account of the challenges he faces, the Spierigs saw to it that we were so wrapped up in the narrative that sympathy for a person in that situation crept up on you, assuming you had never given it much thought, and soon you were engrossed in the twists and turns.
On the other hand, perhaps the directors showed their hand a little too early by letting us know in the first ten minutes that time travel was involved, as from that point you could follow the film's logic to its eventual conclusion - if you could call it a conclusion - way ahead of being told by the characters what was going on. Initially it seemed to be taking an ironic approach to gender politics by stating that it was still a man's world no matter how far advanced technologically we became, and that was certainly a theme, but more than that was the message that technology wouldn't expand our horizons quite as much as we would expect, as it didn't make the universe larger in its possibilities, it made it turn in on itself as we, the users, became increasingly self-obsessed. The manner in which Predestination played that out (and it wasn't given that title for nothing) could have been satirical, a feature length wink to the audience, yet it was presented with admirable seriousness, helped immensely by Snook's desperately sad, constricted persona. Peter wrote the soundtrack as well.