Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Paly Productions and Co-Writer/Director, Tony Dean Smith for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest feature film “Volition”. Volition is a Sci-Fi/Thriller of mind-bending proportions. It revolves around James (played by Adrian Glynn McMorran), a somewhat disengaged man with clairvoyant abilities who whilst being leveraged by a dangerous man (played by John Cassini), attempts to change his impending tragic fate when he becomes entwined with Angela (Magda Apanowicz), in a time-traveling scenario. The film also stars Bill Marchant (TV’s Strange Empire), Frank Cassini (Timecop), and Aleks Paunovic (TV’s Van Helsing).
Volition certainly isn’t the first film to deal with premonitions or the notions of time travel. “Final Destination” being, of course, one of the early examples, along with the likes of “Timecrimes”, “Source Code” and in recent time “Looper” and “Predestination” (among others). It’s rare that you see this sort of finesse at an independent level though, especially from those with a little less experience. With a chunk of credits to his name in the short-medium, DP Byron Kopman has conceived some high-class cinematography with Volition. Everything is superbly framed and so much of the active camera work gives off good energy. There’s a wonderful macro shot of James’s eyes at the beginning, followed by obligatory feet tracking through the apartment. In fact, all of the gentle tracking shots look great. The film was shot in British Columbia and its picturesque mountain backdrop is on display in scenes where James and Angela hit the road at the end of the first act. The film has crisp audio and an unusual but inviting score by Matthew Rogers (Scarecrow 2013).
Each of the performances is poised nicely with natural dynamics throughout, and McMorran (who I remember seeing in The Revenant) reminds me of an Edward Norton type, holding the course with good dramatic acting and distinctive narration. Apanowicz was one of the shining lights in “The Green Inferno” and she brings a certain warmth to an otherwise shady world in which the men of the piece co-exist in. Experience comes in the form of the Cassini brothers, who have been working in the business for as long as I’ve been alive. Their respective characters Ray and Sal aren’t exactly complex, fortunately, the screentime that involves them is well-spent simply because they’re good actors. Volition is pretty well-paced for the most part, and the themes of identity and grief are identifiable ones.
I’m not even going to attempt to dissect the machinations of the specific timelines, I’ll leave that for the viewer to decipher. What I will say though, is that Volition might be just a little too puzzling for its own good and you’ll more than likely be left with a few questions by the time the credits start rolling. We’re led to believe that James often uses his gift to make money, yet for some reason, he can’t afford to pay his utilities? If such is the case, he lives in a pretty nice apartment for a guy with no money. For a guy who knew how it all worked for him, I was surprised in his complete lack of system. Choosing to write transactions of note on the wall with a marker for anyone to see instead of opting for some sort of coded device (like a cell) that only he could access. That said, Terry (Paunovic) and Sal (to a degree) don’t once think to look at the wall or search the apartment for any information as to James’s dealings. I found the second layer of multiplicity somewhat confusing (or maybe just the point at which it was introduced). I’m not too sure how James knew he’d already lived it all if he hadn’t yet come into possession of the syringe with the formula. How does the substance actually work? How much of the supply is there and how can he travel with it?
Volition is a thinking person’s Mystery/Thriller that boasts extremely high production values and really good performances. It feels like a mix of “Counter Clockwise” and “Paradox”, and the pertinent themes keep the film grounded in as much of a reality as the story parameters allow. I love the cinematography, the soundtrack is interesting, and James makes for a hardy protagonist. I think it’ll require a second viewing to better assemble the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. I’d hoped for some slightly better-fleshing out of the principals of the travel and some smarter decision making from both James and his counterparts wouldn’t have gone astray. Whilst I wasn’t able to take it all in the first time around, I was thoroughly entertained and I think you will be too. The film is currently on the festival circuit so stay tuned for updates. You can check out the trailer below!
My rating for “Volition” is 6.5/10