Predicting the future has always been a point of fascination for us. Miss Cleo made a fortune on it, the American government has run numerous studies on it, and mystics and spiritualists have formed entire religious movements around it. The fascination with supernatural foresight makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to know what tomorrow’s PowerBall numbers will be? But while clairvoyance may come in handy in street fights and sports betting, what do you do when you see something you don’t want to? Your death, for instance. Such is the case in the Sci-Fi thriller mind-fuck, Volition.
James (Adrian McMorran, The Revenant) is a down on his luck, whiskey drinkin’, grass smoking grifter. He also just so happens to be able to see the future. A pretty useful skill to have when you’re thinking of ripping someone off or wondering how things are going to go with that cute girl you just met. But when he has fragmented visions of his own death, he and his new friend Angela (Magda Apanowicz, The Green Inferno) have to scramble to solve the mystery and save his life. It’s a plot that sounds pretty threadbare and probably more than a little familiar, but with each new development the premise gets more intricate and simultaneously more obvious. Writing duo Ryan W. Smith & Tony Dean Smith (who also directs) take a well trodden path and push it into new and original territories. Every twist bringing new insights, every effort our characters make bringing new challenges. It’s a cleverly written script, and with a 90 minute runtime, not a single word of it is wasted. Every scene plays a pivotal role in the overall story, putting Volition miles ahead of contemporaries like Next or The Gift.
While the surface level plot would be enough to make Volition a good movie, it’s the underlying themes that make it great. If clairvoyance exists, is there a such thing as free will? Do our choices matter? Is your own death really the worst thing thing you can imagine? This isn’t a movie that’s content with just being another sci-fi romp, it also wants to ask you questions about the nature of the story and the way it relates to the world around you. The script does a pretty bang up job of that on it’s own, but the cast really drives it home. McMorran walks a tightrope of being strung out and edgy enough to be cool while still being vulnerable and decent enough for you to root for him. Apanowicz isn’t a slouch either, carrying the audience through this ride and asking the right questions to give us the information we need–but without feeling clunky and expository. Possibly the most interesting performance of the film is that of the psychologist Elliot (Bill Marchant, Chappie). Both his character and his performance shift as the story moves along, working in different ways at different times, feeling a little bit stale or forced before shifting as we understand more about what’s going on.
I have to imagine that editing this movie would be a nightmare, but it doesn’t show. The way it’s cut together allows for each of the many twists and turns to land exactly when it needs to. That’s invaluable for a movie like this. They say editing is the soul of cinema, so this team deserves a pat on the back. In fact, the technical aspects of Volition are pretty solid through and through. Aside from falling into the CGI smoke pitfall, the visual effects are consistently up to snuff. There are a few lighting hangups, but if a chief complaint with a movie is not enough lighting in a few scenes, then you know you’ve got a pretty damn good product. Besides, it’s still better than the White Walker episode of Game Of Thrones, and I’m pretty sure GoT probably had them outgunned in terms of resources. I would be interested in learning what the production budget was. It’s obviously not a major studio film, but I can think of multiple movies that have come out from major studios this year that couldn’t hold their own against Volition.
It may be chock-full of twists and turns, but they aren’t used as a crutch. Volition is truly compelling and has more than enough Easter eggs and hidden clues to justify multiple viewings. The relatively short runtime and tight script make it a quick and engrossing watch, and the way it’s packaged will grab you from the very beginning and won’t let go. I fucking love this movie, and I’m pretty sure you will too.
Volition drops on Friday, July 10th on digital platforms. Give it your money, because we both know you won’t be going out.