(director/writer: Michael and Peter Spierig; screenwriter: based on the short story ” — All You Zombies — ” by Robert A. Heinlein; cinematographer: Ben Nott;; editor: Matt Villa; music: Peter Spierig; cast: Ethan Hawke (the barkeep/Temporal Agent), Sarah Snook (The Unmarried Mother/Jane and John Doe), Noah Taylor (Mr. Robertson), Tyler Coppin (Dr Heinlein), Christopher Stollery (The Interviewer); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan, Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig; Blacklab Entertainment; 2014-Australia)
“Trippy sci-fi thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The German born twins, Michael and Peter Spierig(“Daybreakers”/”Undead”), direct and write this trippy sci-fi thriller made in Australia. It’s a weird but thought-provoking fantasy film. The brothers adapt Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 time-travel short story “All You Zombies” to the screen. The movie title was changed to make it clear there are no zombies in it. The well-crafted and well-acted low-budget film turns out to be a splendid gender-breaking film about predestination, one that’s so highly polished you might think it was made by a big-time Hollywood studio.
Ethan Hawke is a time-traveling lawman, that is he’s a “temporal agent,” who tries to prevent a terrorist bombing in NYC of 10 blocks in 1975 from The Fizzle Bomber. The agent’s face is severely burned during the incident and he requires facial reconstruction. He’s thereby sent back home by the agency to NYC in 1970 and given another chance to try to arrest the bomber before he strikes. He goes undercover as a barkeep. There he listens to the moody patron John Doe (Sarah Snook, Aussie actress) tell a strange story of being born a girl who was abandoned at an orphanage. She grows up to be the first potential woman astronaut after recruited by SpaceCorp. But she’s dismissed. In civilian life she’s seduced by a mysterious stranger, who leaves her when she’s pregnant. At the child’s birth, he’s stolen from a hospital. It’s also discovered she was born with both male and female sex organs. Because of the pregnancy, her uterus is removed. The agent then successfully recruits John Doe to kill the mysterious stranger who did her wrong. To do this, they both trek back to 1964 to find answers (I might add brainy metaphysical ones) throughstudying such subjects as temporal predestination.
There were several key additions made to Heinlein’s tale, giving it some more shockers and topical twists. Though it could be confusing and lacking logic at times, I highly recommend it for those looking for something way out in space. A sci-fi film that might leave you both dazzled and puzzled, as it takes what at first might seem like a familiar plot and moves it into another realm without blinking.
Snook gives one of cinema’s better performances, exposing her vulnerability and tenderness. Too bad not enough people saw the film to get it more deserving attention.
REVIEWED ON 1/5/2016 GRADE: A-