By: Trevor Chartrand
An edgy sci-fi thriller, Volition combines Back to the Future with Groundhog Day, though it takes a much darker approach. Director/co-writer Tony Dean Smith takes audiences for an interesting ride in this day-in-the-life time travel story.
The film stars Adrian Glynn McMorran as James, a man with a gift for clairvoyance who has a vision of his own impending death. In his desperation to prevent this vision from becoming reality, James sets out to prove the power of free will can trump a pre-determined fate, or destiny. Along the way, he befriends a woman named Angela (Magda Apanowicz), who winds up being killed in his place. Knowing she may have stolen his fate, James attempts to set things right, to save her with the use of a prototype time displacement serum given to him by his life-long therapist. The medication allows him to travel back in time, reliving his day in an effort to sway past events to save Angela from a death that was meant for him.
Narratively, Volition is structured with great use of connect-the-dots interactivity that’s common in time travel films like this one; where unexplained moments early in the film foreshadow the character’s future self interacting with his past. The film evaluates the notion of ‘destiny vs free will’, and with a fairly definitive ending, we get the filmmakers’ clear take on the question.
The characters are straightforward and audiences will ‘get’ who they are fairly quickly, but for the most part they are one-note, essentially ill-defined by the writers. In a world populated by gun-toting mafia stereotypes, Volition is most guilty of underwriting the love interest, in the character of Angela. Actress Magda Apanowic is great in the role, however the character is severely lacking in the motivation department.
Much like the Carly Chaikin character in my recent review of Last Moment of Clarity, here we have another example of a protagonist deep in danger from a criminal underworld, who meets up with an innocent bystander – who immediately joins him. Angela teams up with James, without question, despite the unbelievable risk to her personal safety. A gain, no one in their right mind would put themselves in this kind of danger for someone they’ve just met. She has multiple opportunities to leave James, especially after driving him to safety in a motel (in HER car, no less). With no stakes in the story, and no relationship with James, that’s the point where Angela – and most level-headed human beings – would hit the road . Instead, this character decides to go further down the rabbit hole with a stranger being chased by armed Mafioso’s.
The camerawork in Volition is interesting, most notably for the use of visual callbacks and motifs that reveal their true nature later on, thanks to the time travel plot device. We see a lot of the film out of context through James’ hazy visions. When the visions later become clear, it’s entertaining to see the blanks being filled in through James’ eyes.
While Volition may not be a true original, it’s undoubtedly a smart and engaging film; a movie that successfully weaves multiple timelines in some clever and fun ways. While the characters are lacking, the narrative is fast-paced and layered, peppered with strong revelations and a resolution that will spark the imagination of filmgoers.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor