Published Jul 07, 2020Tony Dean Smith's Volition is a great example of an interesting concept executed almost flawlessly. A lowkey sci-fi thriller, Volition centers on James (Adrian Glynn McMorran), a young man "afflicted" with clairvoyance, whose visions come to him in the form of intrusive, fragmented images from the future. James has no control over these visions, and despite his magical foresight, he struggles to make ends meet, often turning to gambling and criminal activity in order to pay his rent.
McMorran carries the film well as the conflicted James, whose confidence and laid-back attitude are tempered by the unpredictable and often violent visions that intrude upon his life. The cast is perfectly rounded out with Magda Apanowicz as James's vulnerable, world-weary counterpart, Angela, John Cassini as goofy-but-menacing diamond dealer Ray, and Bill Marchant as James's stern and troubled foster dad, Elliott. There are no weak links in this cast, and each performer demonstrates a detailed, thorough understanding of their characters. Even as the plot becomes more confusing, the strength of the cast keeps the film from ever going completely off the rails.
Indeed, as the story progresses, it (deliberately?) gets increasingly convoluted. After James's business partner Sal (Frank Cassini) and his terrifying strongman associate Terry (Aleks Paunovic) attempt to steal the diamonds in James's possession, James and Angela flee to Elliott's house for safety, but wind up in a tragic shootout with Sal, Terry and Ray. Faced with imminent danger, Elliott injects James with a serum that allows him to travel backwards through time and uncover the truth about his clairvoyance. Storylines, timelines and different iterations of James intersect and overlap as it becomes increasingly unclear where or when the film is taking place.
The compelling characters and the film's unique take on time travel make it easy to forgive all the convolution. James's panic, confusion, and desperation are palpable as he repeatedly attempts to re-order his fate in order to save Angela. Haunted by his mother's death (which he foresaw as a child) and the philosophical quandary of whether it is possible to change what is "fated," James makes every effort to alter the timeline of events that lead to Ray shooting Angela, tiptoeing around his past selves, stealing cars and guns, and getting beaten up and severely injured in the process.
Once he reaches the conclusion (spurred by Elliott) that not everybody wants to be saved from their fate, a great deal of blood has been shed and James is forced to acknowledge and accept the tragedies that have shaped his life. These heavy philosophical topics are treated with adequate grace and seriousness, and the film seems to acknowledge the impossibility of attempting to resolve any such issues over the course of 90 minutes. Instead, Volition offers a compelling, novel, and entertaining take on time travel, crime, violence and self-determination. (levelFILM)