Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery, Drama
Directors/Writers: The Spierig Brothers
based on the story ALL YOU ZOMBIES by Robert A. Heinlein
Music: Peter Spierig
Cinematography: Ben Nott
Aussie directers-duo the Spierig Brothers’ third feature is an audacious adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story ALL YOU ZOMBIES, where solipsism and inevitability has been emblazoned to the fore with a little help of the time travel gimmick, but the original text is obviously inadequate to qualify as a feature-length material, the brothers must beef up their script thence they introduce the character of the mysterious “Fizzle Bomber”, a consequential decision both burnishes and undermines the film’s appeal.
Envelope has been furthermore pushed in a way that now Heinlein’s solipsistic concept finally reaches its ultimate crest where a person (please suspending your disbelief!) can literally be conceived and terminated all by himself/herself, everything is able to be pre-designed as long as the said person is set to meet different versions of himself/herself in the right time, which makes the contrivances of hermaphrodite and facial disfigurement utilitarian methods to obfuscate audience’s apprehension, and it does work if one does have entrenched faith in the soi-disant “predestination paradox”, to quote Wikipedia, here is its definition “a time loop in which a time traveler who has gone into the past causes an event that ultimately causes the original future version of the person to go back into the past”.
On the other hand, the Fizzle Bomber appendage inevitably takes the shine off the otherwise unified theory by press-ganging a stiff character transformation which isn’t as persuasive as the rest theory (however cockamamie it is!), Jane, John, the time-traveling agent, are the same person in different phases, we can buy that (which is Heinlein’s whimsical idea), but why he also must be the Fizzle Bomber? If inevitability is the overriding proviso, the audience probably might feel discombobulated to suss what damage has the bomber done? Has the hyped terrorist crime in 1975 been pre-empted or is it as inevitable as the narcissistic chance meeting of falling in love with oneself in a previous timeline (albeit foreknowing all the consequences)? That is what bugging me the most upon a first viewing.
Whereas a fascinating story is at its core, the film itself is less flashy and without much flourish, lackluster flashback and barroom tête-à-tête fill up most of the time, the meager action scenes are slipshod and the sole explosion set piece is atrociously cheap-looking. In the acting realm, Ethan Hawke is habitually on automatic pilot, giving the expositional guidance in earnest and maintains a necessary patina of engagement, but the linchpin here is the lesser-known Australian actress Sarah Snook, takes the dualistic role in her stride and proves to be pleasantly chameleon-like in juggling both sexes, adding much ballast to an utter tall-tale, totally beyond one’s wildest imagination.