I shall be looking ahead to Predestination, telling its future and poring over its history to see if it’s worth looking forward to or better in hindsight. So read on only if you’ve already seen Predestination, or don’t plan to.
Synopsis (AKA one very long spoiler): A baby hermaphrodite is raised as a girl (Jane) who then meets a man from the future (John), who is in fact herself after a sex change. They make love and their baby is taken back in the past to be the little baby hermaphrodite (Jane). The one who takes her into the past is the man John becomes (the Barkeep) after his face is reconstructed following an explosion. This man then confronts a mad bomber (the Fizzle Bomber), who is in fact the Barkeep after his mind disintegrates from too many time trips.
TL;DR Baby Jane, Jane, John, Jane & John’s baby, the Barkeep and the Fizzle Bomber are all the same person whose paths intersect during time travels.
What if I could put him in front of you? The man that ruined your life… If I could guarantee that you’d get away with it… Would you kill him?
Let’s take this to the public, shall we?
02 Mar 1970
0:02:29 In the boiler room of a large building, a man puts a bomb into a special metal case, is shot at, and then his face catches fire because he can’t close the case before the cylinder explodes. #defaced
21 Feb 1992
0:02:54 He reaches for his violin case and wakes up with his face in bandages, reading memes nowhere near as funny as mine.
0:04:44 The Barkeep (Ethan Hawke, the man who was de-faced) is a temporal agent looking to nab a bomber who will blow up ten blocks of New York City in 1975. As he has photographs of the explosion he’s trying to prevent, time travel is in our future.
By the time you listen to this, seven years will have passed.
Future Barkeep is making a mini-cassette recording for past Barkeep. I don’t know what I’d prefer, avoiding the worst mistakes I’ve made, or the thrill of making them.
06 Nov 1970
0:07:44 Speaking of time travel, can you tell which is which? One of these GIFs is from Predestination, the other is from John Wick.
0:08:18 The Barkeep’s watch reads “06 Nov 1970”. Telling time for dummies.
[Trivia: November 6, 1970, is also the precise day actor Ethan Hawke was born.]
Barkeep: What came first, the chicken or the egg?
John: The rooster.
Barkeep: See? I’m terrible.
John: That’s the best you got? That wasn’t funny.
Barkeep: You ever think about that, though?
John: ‘Bout what?
Barkeep: About what comes first?
[This joke is foreshadowing, considering John and the Barkeep are one and the same person.]
I’ll be the cock, if you bring the eggs.
0:12:42 I thought the bloke at the bar was a little strange looking, but now I realize it’s a woman dressed as a man. I hope this isn’t the big reveal, although it might be fun to see what he reveals. #LGBT #TheCryingGame
[Note that at this point, John tries to light a cigarette but his lighter doesn’t work. The Barkeep lights it for him with the same lighter because, we will eventually learn, they are the same person.]
John: Stupid name. ‘The Fizzle Bomber’. The guy makes compressed RDX-based explosive compounds. It’s not easy.
Barkeep: ‘Fizzle Bomber’ is easier to remember.
John: I hate that name. Makes it sound like his bombs just fizzle. Like they don’t do any real damage.
I couldn’t agree more. ‘Fizzle Bomber’ is right up there with Diddle Rapist and Tickle Killer.
John (Sarah Snook): When I was a little girl…
The good news is, her sexuality isn’t the big reveal. The bad news is, I twist my arm patting myself on the back.
13 Sep 1945
0:16:12 In a flashback, we see John as an infant girl (Jane) being left on the doorstep of an orphanage in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. ‘Ohio’ sounds more like a yawn than a municipality, a state of being more than a state.
0:21:48 Noah Taylor as Mr. Robertson, a government representative who solicits Jane to join in the service of her government because she’s too homely to become adopted or bedded.
[Note: Mr. Robertson is the man behind the government, the puppet master pulling the strings. ‘Tis he who manipulates Jane (whom he knew to be a hermaphrodite from her medical exam at Space Corp.) to have a baby with herself so that he could have a perfect Temporal Agent: a closed loop (mother, father, baby) with no outside family.]
Jane [voice off]: This is around the time the suits finally admitted you can’t send a man into space for months or years and not do something to relieve the tension. They were looking for respectable types, preferably virgins — they like to train them from scratch — above average mentally, stable emotionally.
TIL, Space Corp. and I have the same taste.
Panel leader: Have you ever been with a man?
Jane: Have you?
If I had a pound for every time, I’d be obese. #ThoughtJoke
0:27:13 There’s a rigorous testing period which lasts several months to select which woman will serve as semen receptacle in the space ship. Sometimes the best woman for the job is a man, or at least will become one.
Jane: Sometimes I get the feeling there’s something out of balance. Like I’m living in someone else’s body. I don’t know how to describe it.
Try, “It’s like having sex with yourself.”
[This scene shows us Jane has, indeed, two genders living in her body.]
0:29:26 Jane is eliminated from the program.
Doctor [to Mr. Robertson]: You do know that this will disqualify her.
He found the the missile deep inside her silo / the torpedo tucked up in her tube / the rocket she doesn’t know is hiding in her pad.
03 Apr 1963
0:32:39 She falls in love with a man and gives her virtue to him, without noticing the scars from his hysterectomy and double mastectomy.
[We will later learn that the man she meets is herself as a man, from the future. WTF!? She doesn’t recognize herself as a man? Seriously!?]
0:34:54 Later, Mr. Robertson reappears and tells Jane he wants her to be a part of some secret organization that rights wrongs. However, he absconds when he learns Jane is pregnant. That being said, Mr. Robertson is nowhere near the first bloke to high tail it when a girl gets pregnant. The father already has, for example.
0:36:41 After she gives birth, a doctor sits at her bedside to talk to her. You know you’re in trouble when the doctor needs a cigarette to break the news to you.
Doctor: You had two full sets of organs, Jane, female and male. Both immature, but the female set well enough developed for you to have a baby. I’m afraid, my dear, the excessive bleeding from the birth forced us to perform a hysterectomy. We had to remove your ovaries and uterus.
Jane: What are you saying?
Doctor: But the reconstruction allowed us to create a male urinary tract. Further surgeries will be required…
Jane:… to become a man?
I can make you a man in just seven hours.
0:39:18 Two weeks after the birth, someone [i.e. the Barkeep] ‘snatched’ her baby from the hospital nursery. I’m not 100% sure a transsexual male is allowed to use the word ‘snatch’.
06 Nov 1970
John: When the nurse had her back turned someone walked in and walked her .
Barkeep: Were there any clues? Any description?
John: Just a man with a face shaped face.
“A face shaped face”? WTF!?
0:42:21 After the operation, John can’t even look at herself in the mirror. And when he does, he doesn’t recognize himself as the man with all the surgery scars that got him pregnant!? WTF!? WTF! WTF!? WTF!? WTF!?
0:42:35 Lol, at least he gets to pee standing up.
06 Nov 1970
John: I just found out this morning that I’m not shooting blanks any more.
Barkeep: Well, all right!
John: I’m a fully fertile male specimen.
Things men talk about in bars…
0:45:36 John attempts to re-enlist in Space Corp. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again as a different gender.
[Note: the Doctor who examines him here is a look-a-like for Robert Heinlein, the author of the short story “All You Zombies” on which this film is based. In the credits, the Doctor’s name is listed as Dr. Heinlein.]
[Note: The book in this screen cap, ‘Stranger in a strange land’, was written by Robert Heinlein.]
06 Nov 1970
Jane: You son of a bitch. You’ve been following me?
Barkeep: ‘Son of a bitch’. That’s funny.
It is when you realize John and the Barkeep both have the same mother (Jane).
Barkeep: I can put this guy in your lap. You can do whatever you want and I guarantee you’ll get away with it.
John: All right, where is he?
Barkeep: I do something for you and you do something for me.
John: Fuck you.
Barkeep: OK, enjoy your prize. [The bottle of whisky he won for his story.]
Barkeep: You like your job?
John: Hell, no.
Barkeep: No one’s ever given you a break, right?
John: Did you listen to my story?
Barkeep: Yeah, and you excelled during your service training. Excelled. You have skills you’ve never had the chance to use, and I can give you that chance. Let me put it this way: I hand him to you and you do whatever you like. And when you’re done? You try my job. You don’t like it, you walk away.
John: You’re not talking about bar tending, are you?
No, he’s talking about being the same person you are.
0:52:47 Barkeep sings along with the song, ‘I’m my own grandpa’, because it’s probably true.
0:53:38 The violin case is a time machine. Good for playing oldies.
03 Apr 1963
Jane: Where’s Robertson?
Barkeep: He’s in 1985.
Barkeep: Bureau headquarters.
“When’s Robertson?” FTFY
0:55:46 The Barkeep says he’s a Temporal Agent, “one of eleven.” This implies that, due to his ‘illegal’ jumps, he has created 11 alternate Barkeeps. 11 barmen and yet I still wait forever to get served at my local pub on a Friday night.
Jane: How far can you travel, then?
Barkeep: Travel 53 years beyond zero point, either direction, will result in the temporal wake disintegrating.
Jane: Zero point?
Barkeep: The invention of time travel.
Jane: When’s that?
Barkeep: It will be in 1981.
1981 is also the year that Christopher Cross made a big splash with “Sailing”. Time travel was no doubt created to get away from this.
1:00:22 John goes off to intercept the man that will meet Jane and destroy her life. Little does he know, he himself is the chap who will meet Jane and destroy her life. The man Jane falls in love with is herself, as a man, from the future. This a very roundabout way of saying ‘masturbation’.
March 2, 1970
1:01:39 The Barkeep makes an unauthorized jump to the beginning of this film and exchanges fisticuffs with the Fizzle Bomber, who has a long, grey pony tail under his baseball cap. This fashion choice will have more meaning later. Let me simply state here that there’s no call for him to beat himself up.
1:03:26 The Barkeep witnesses John (who’s arrived from 1985) getting burnt up by the Fizzle Bomber. Burned John sets the violin case / time travel machine for 21 February, 1992, where he will go and get faced. The Barkeep goes to March 2, 1964, where he records a note to bring a hat and coat because it’s cold in New York in 1964. These blokes have a lot of times on their hands.
03 Apr 1963
1:12:56 Jane as John is on a date with himself as a young woman, and later (1:13:02) they have their first kiss. The truth? I wouldn’t want to do this. I’d be afraid of finding out I was a terrible kisser.
1:10:14 At HQ.
Robertson [to Barkeep about illegal jumps]: The fragments of matter you leave behind after each jump…we can only repair so much. The onset of psychosis, dementia, it can be serious.
The Barkeep is losing his mind, a little piece at a time.
02 Mar 1964 v.2
1:13:38 Holding the baby and listening to the tape (it’s March 2, 1964 v.2 because this time Barkeep is wearing the coat and hat that Barkeep v.1 mentioned on the tape), the Barkeep jumps back to 13 September, 1945. A blast to the past.
1:14:16 The Barkeep leaves the baby on the doorstep of the orphanage, meaning Jane was a baby that grew up to be a woman who meets herself as a man and they have a baby that gets taken back in time and grows up to be her. She is her own mother and father. Möbius stripper.
24 Jun 1963
1:14:58 Barkeep then time travels to pick up John. This is when John leaves pregnant Jane (see my note at 0:34:54). Men are so predictable…emphasis on ‘dick’.
August 12, 1985
1:18:01 The Barkeep takes John to HQ.
Barkeep: You’re home. Your troubles are over. You’re going to save millions of lives. You’re about to embark on the most important job a man has ever had.
Because having sex with yourself so you can give birth to yourself is not the most important job?
1:19:48 Barkeep leaves the tape recorder with the notes on John’s night stand in the hospital where John recovers from the long jump (he’s sick because of the huge time difference). This means that the Barkeep is also Jane and John, only with a different face because of the explosion. If this trend continues, we’ll discover the film is really just a one-man show.
06 Nov 1970
1:19:52 The song in the bar when Barkeep returns is still “I’m my own grandpa”.
7 Jan 1975
1:20:28 Barkeep lands in New York and his case reads ‘decommission’ and then ‘Fail – Error – fail’. Like the minority of my jokes.
1:21:42 John is listening to the tape in 1985, at HQ, preparing to go back to the beginning of the film to confront the Fizzle Bomber. He will only succeed in getting his face burned off. #LosingFace
7 Jan 1975
1:23:56 The Barkeep types out a novel called Time, Love, and an Unmarried Mother. by Jane John Doe. I think I’ll wait for the film. Hold on, this is it. Ooh, I think I’ve just time travelled.
[A commenter on another blog postulates that this book is a tell-all book written by Barkeep to expose his entire history of time travel. Mr. Robertson (who is another version of Jane / John / Barkeep / Fizzle Bomber) creates the Fizzle Bomber to destroy the book and protect the future of time travel.]
1:25:38 The Barkeep realizes he’s been looking for himself, and not in the religious sense, but in the ‘I am the bloody Fizzle Bomber myself’ sense. We’re led to believe it’s because he’s time travelled so much, but he only time travelled to find the Fizzle Bomber, so I call WTF!? This isn’t a case of the chicken and the egg. Because I’m not chicken and the egg is on the screenwriter’s face.
1:26:14 The Fizzle Bomber explains to his younger self that he was blowing up other bombers as a way to stop their bomb attacks. He doesn’t consider the civilian casualties that die along with the targeted terrorist because his brain is softer than a straight man at a John Newman concert.
1:29:24 Barkeep empties his gun into himself as the Fizzle Bomber. Like a selfie, only not shot with a camera.
[As kind of a summary, John is in love with Jane. As John is the Barkeep, the Barkeep also loves Jane. This means the Fizzle Bomber is also in love with Jane, and by extension with the Barkeep and John, because they are extensions of Jane. The Fizzle Bomber leaves clues so that Barkeep can find him in the future and he hopes that he can spend time with his younger self. But by taking illegal trips to find and kill the Fizzle Bomber, the Barkeep ensures he will go mad and evolve into the Fizzle Bomber. Mr. Robertson has manipulated Jane and orchestrated events to create this loop where Jane / John / the Barkeep hunt the Fizzle Bomber so much they become him. Mr. Robertson’s job is keeping the loop in tact to learn about the limitations and possibilities of time travel, probably for ‘the government’.]
Note: I referred to three sources while preparing this review…
- An excellent article about the Predestination Paradox at Astronomy Trek
- A thorough review, excellent time graph, and a trove of treasures in the comment section of Digestive Pyrotechnics
- The always informative trivia section at IMDb
- WTF!?’s: 5 timely ones
- When to Follow: When you’re in the mood to watch Terminator but want less action and more intellectual leaps.
- Where’s This Found: Ethan Hawke outdoes himself here, which is nice after a recent streak of less than impressive performances. The story is complex but you don’t need a film review to follow the general outline. If you prefer to dig a little deeper, however, prepare yourself for disappointment as this film just isn’t worth the effort. Out of a possible 10, I have 6 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: If the person who ruined your life was put before you, and you were guaranteed to get away with murdering that person, would you? See the poll at the top of the post!
What were your impressions of the film? Do you have any questions? Any alternate theories? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
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What to Follow Up
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