UK PREMIERE – VOLITION Sci-Fi Thriller
Director: Tony Dean Smith. With: Adrian Glynn McMorran, Magda Apanowicz, John Cassini, Aleks Paunovic. Canada 2019. 91 mins.
James the clairvoyant gets himself involved with dodgy diamonds to pay his rent. When he glimpses premonitions of his own bloody demise he must make choices that would give Einstien a stress migraine. Can he and Elliot, the cardigan-wearing motherfucker, knit together fragments of his future in time to thwart his deadly destiny?
This punchy and streamlined head-scratcher relies hard on twists and reveals. Subsequently, I will steer away from anything that may dilute the pleasure of having your head fucked with, as the element of surprise is one of the flicks main strengths.
Volition does a marvellous job of enticing us along on its curveball journey with economic exposition and breviloquent dialogue. Too many films of this genre end up smashing the audience over the head with science until they are battered into compliance. Whilst the amount of care poured into this project is evident it never ties itself in knots, a massive compliment for a plot this complex. That being said, you will be cut adrift like a spacewalking accident if you nip to the toilet at the wrong time.
The film looks and sounds glossy and polished and the team of editors, and you will see why they needed more than one, do an incredible job of gelling the film. Without their skilful cinematic weaving things could have gone south very quickly.
Thematically Volition is a rich and diverting experience, with moral and ethical conundrums orbiting the central concept of the pliability of fate. The choices finally made by the likeable James, as he seeks to break from the white knuckle grip of inevitability, are compelling and unexpectedly moving.
Movies with this much intelligence and finite logistics are often prone to smug self-aggrandising. They seem to relish the Machiavellian headlock they have inflicted on the viewer, forcing them to acquiesce in the sheer cleverness of it all. Where Volition is crucially different is that it presents its elegant narrative as a case for cherishing the present we live in as connected humans, rather than a celebration of its own hubris.
Volition is an exceptional genre flick with a shit ton of ideas and the limitless heart to express them in a way that charms rather than bulldozes.
Going to the Shriekfest Horror Film Festival in Los Angeles this year for the first time, I had a few preconceived notions about it. My biggest was that its lineup would be solely comprised of scary movies. The festival, however, offered a lot more, including thriller and science fiction films. I’m especially glad for the latter, as it led to me viewing Volition. Winner of the Best Sci-Fi Feature Film award at the fest, it is a very well made indie thriller dealing with clairvoyance and non-linear storytelling.
In the film, James is blessed with the gift of clairvoyance. A down on his luck guy who has had associations with criminal elements in the past, he sometimes drifts off in his mind, leading to visions of things to come. He uses this to make a few bucks on boxing matches and the like, just to get by. He is brought back into the criminal fold though, by an old associate named Ray. Ray has millions in diamonds he’s trying to fence and needs James to foresee safe passage for them. The former offers the latter $100,000 in exchange for his services. James signs up for the deal but is soon double-crossed and finds himself on the run. Accompanying him is a drifter girl named Angela, whom he has just met. They’re falling fast for each other, which complicates things. They stop off at the house of James’ former foster dad, and that’s where the time-bending element comes in, making things even weirder, though I won’t go into it too much.
The story shines in Volition, its screenplay the product of the filmmaking team of brothers Tony Dean Smith and Ryan W. Smith. The former also serves as director, and the two craft an ingenious little sci-fi thriller that surprises the viewer at every opportunity. Just when you think you know where it’s going, it takes a hard left turn, and leaves you startled.
The movie is cast flawlessly, showcasing actors I was heretofore unfamiliar with. Adrian Glynn McMorran is James, and we follow him on his journey and become greatly invested in his plight. Magda Aponowicz, a vet of episodic television, shines as the apple of James’ eye, a girl familiar with struggle and one whose quick loyalty is understood and appreciated. John Cassini, who plays the baddie Ray, also impresses as he toggles between striking fear in the hearts of those who he believes have crossed him while also having a sort of fatherly bond with James.
Volition is the type of film that film festivals exist for. It could easily fall through the cracks when put up against the big Hollywood flicks, but in a film fest setting it can be properly evaluated and praised. And praised it should be, as it is one of the better, more original movies I’ve seen this year.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Looper, Primer, Timecrimes
The Twentieth FrightFest is here so obviously our exclusive interview feature Five FrightFest Facts From… is back with a vengeance. Below we hear from VOLITION’s Tony Dean Smith (director/co-writer/producer) and Ryan W. Smith (co-writer/producer)and you can read more FrightFest Facts from 2019 and beyond by clicking HERE.
1. Tell us about your film?
Volition is grounded, cerebral science-fiction film about JAMES ODIN, a man afflicted with clairvoyance. He sees snippets from his future, and everything he sees always comes true. But his ability is not a superhero power, it’s an affliction, which has caused him to lead a life of petty crime. He sees no use in living an upstanding life because he believes all is fated. That is… until, after saying yes to illegally moving diamonds for a crime syndicate, he suddenly sees a vision of his own imminent murder. Desperate to change his fate, he goes on the run, with a woman he’s just connected with. As they race against an unknown killer, James comes to learn that his affliction is not quite what it seems. The story takes some very unique turns, which has led some reviewers to liken it a mix between LOOPER, INCEPTION and BLACK MIRROR.
2. How did you get into making horror movies?
Well, while Volition has some horror elements, in truth, it’s a cerebral science-fiction film. Tony has been filmmaking from a very young age. It all started when he borrowed our father’s handycam and convinced our siblings to act in his short films. That’s when Ryan got involved. Tony would direct, with Ryan, his younger brother, acting along side their sibling sisters. Soon, Tony’s skills as a writer/director developed, leading to bigger productions. Ryan also shifted from acting and started writing more seriously. Volition is the culmination of all those earlier years, with Tony directing, based on a script written by Tony and Ryan.
3. What film would you love to see screened at FrightFest and why?
We’ve heard only incredible things about FrightFest, with everyone raving about the audiences and their passion. That would make any film-going experience truly unique. To be a bit cheeky, I suppose we’d love to see our next film screen there! First we need to make it… 🙂
4. If you could create your own award to give at the FrightFest, what would it be and why?
We’d give our cast and crew the BEST SMILES ON ZERO SLEEP AWARD, if we could. Everyone worked so damn hard during the making of this film, which included a ridiculous amount of night shoots. The award would be in the shape of a pillow. But hard as a rock… because, hey, no sleeping on set.
5. If your life was made into a horror film, what would it be called and who would play the starring role?
It’d be called Blood Brothers and we’d be played by our doppelgängers, Chris and Liam Hemsworth.
VOLITION’s UK PREMIERE is in CINEWORLD DISCOVERY SATURDAY 24 AUGUST Find out more HERE
Hollywood News Source got the chance to watch Sci-fi film Volition and then interview the cast and crew ahead of its screening at London’s FrightFest 2019 Film Festival.
We conducted interviews with specifically with Tony Dean Smith, Ryan W. Smith, Adrian Glynn McMorran and Magda Apanowicz.
INTERVIEW WITH TONY DEAN SMITH & RYAN W. SMITH
Volition feels like a pretty unique take on Sci-Fi with the only two titles that remind me of it being Kameron Hurley’s Science Fiction novel The Light Brigade and that Next the 2007 film starring Nicolas Cage. Had you heard of those or short story The Golden Man that inspired the latter?
TONY: We’ve never seen The Light or read The Golden Man, but we’ll look for those titles! We were aware of Next and did eventually watch it, but found that our premise had its own unique twist, which differentiated it from their more classic take on clairvoyance.
I’m interested in how things like location scouting works on an independent film like this. How do you balance the perfect spot with the limitations that come when you’re not being backed by a large production company?
RYAN: It was a juggle. We had to get creative with balancing what we had imagined with what was available. Fortunately, we made the film in Vancouver, which is where Tony and I grew up, so our community is quite well established. We had incredible support from friends and family, some offering locations for us to use, others being willing to share their home for a nominal fee. I think people could tell that this was really a passion project, so they were happy to open their doors to us.
When did you come up with the initial idea that became Volition? Was it always a feature as opposed to a book or series?
TONY: I came up with the original idea when I was in film school. Back then, it was written as a short film, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with various elements within the story, so I shelved it and made another short film instead. I then took the idea out of my drawer a number of years later – and that’s when we were both able to tackle the material, and to elevate, ground and expand it into a feature film.
Were you familiar with the work of the two leads?
TONY: Adrian Glynn McMorran was actually in my first student feature film, so our working relationship goes back a long time. Since then, Adrian and I have also worked on various other projects, including Adrian’s music video for a song called Seven or Eight Days (which is actually where the James character gets his look from). Ryan and Adrian also grew up together and went to theater school together in undergrad, so Adrian’s really part of the family. As for Magda Apanowicz, I’ve known Magda for a long time and have always wanted to work with her. Magda was an acting student at a film school where I was a directing instructor. When I first saw her perform, I immediately identified her as someone with incredible talent and honesty. She’s always had that “it” factor.
You have assembled quite a cast for fans of Sci-Fi shows over the last decade was that intentional?
RYAN: We picked our cast more based on who we felt was ideal for the roles, but, yes, their incredible science-fiction background is a huge plus. Fans of sci-fi will know Adrian Glynn McMorran from Supernatural, Charmed and Arrow. Magda Apanowicz is a sci-fi fan favourite from her work in series like Caprica, Continuum, Kyle XY, among others. Aleks Paunovic also has a great sci-fi track record, on shows like Van Helsing, Snow Piercer, iZombie, and the Planet of the Apes franchise. The same can be said for John Cassini (Continuum, Kingdom Hospital, Eleventh Hour), Frank Cassini (Continuum, Stargate SG-1, X-Files) and Bill Marchant (Chappie, Stargate SG-1, Godzilla). The film also has a great cameo from veteran actor Blu Mankuma, who is well known to sci-fi fans. We’re lucky to have them all!
What are some of the unique challenges of managing production on a budget? And what are some of the positives?
RYAN: The positives are that limitations force you into making very concrete decisions, which can actually help creativity and problem-solving. Also, because this film was made independently, everyone hopped on board based on her or his passion for the project. Our set had a real family feel, which I think made the work stronger.
TONY: Everyone was working extra hard to make this project happen. We can’t thank them enough for that. As for the negatives, not one scene is shot the way it would be if we had more time. Due to the time constraints, we had to forgo elegant, sweeping camera moves in favor of a more run and gun approach. Anything to make our day. That being said, we’re very happy with the aesthetic of the film. Working with our DOP Byron Kopman, we found a look and feel that matches the narrative really well.
What have you learned from this project now that you’re nearly on the other side?
TONY: Never write a clairvoyant movie ever again! We’ve learned so much from the process of making Volition. Going forward, I think we’ll just be that much better at anticipating what’s possible and what’s not on a given budget. What we’ve also learned, which has been positively reinforced by the experience, is that one does not need a massive budget to tell an interesting story. Going forward, we’re excited to see what a bigger budget and better schedule will allow us to capture.
What do you think about the current state of Sci-Fi in film and TV? Meaning do you think it is easier for shows and films to be greenlit and perhaps more importantly in the case of shows are networks now more likely to give genre shows
RYAN: I think the industry is going through a unique shift right now. There are so many new avenues opening up, with each of the streamers battling for dominance. It’s positive news for creators of content. Is that making it easier for show and films to get greenlit? Hard to say. Even with the new avenues, I think it still all comes down to the quality of the work. We’re striving to keep creating innovative, thought-provoking content, in the sci-fi space and others.
TONY: I think the world is hungry for intelligent, cerebral science-fiction. For us, there’s nothing like sci-fi to bring up societal issues that still need solving. From Black Mirror to Ex Machina, science-fiction allows us just enough distance from our everyday lives to provide context to the challenging questions. We’ll keep asking those questions and exploring them through story.
INTERVIEW WITH ADRIAN GLYNN MCMORRAN
What first attracted you to the role of James?
ADRIAN: Tony (director/co-writer) and I made a music video in 2012 for my song “Seven or Eight Days‘, which was almost like a prelude to Volition. Even though he wasn’t called ‘James’ yet, the look and feel of the character I played in that video was basically an early version of the Volition character (i.e., broody a.f.) — someone haunted by his past trying to understand the crazy and surreal things happening in his present. Over the years, Tony kept bugging me every time he and Ryan had a new draft to read, so I was pretty sure that at some point in the history of the world the script would be done and I could finally do this project with the Smith brothers.
Did you do your own stunts?
ADRIAN: I sure as heck did! I was especially proud of my flying back roll across the motel bed. I guess a couple years of amateur peewee gymnastics really paid off.
What was the audition process for this role?
It went something like this:
Tony: Hey Glynn, you wanna play James?
Me: Will you pay me millions?
Tony: No, but we won’t make you read for it.
Me: You got yourself a brooder.
You’re also a musician how do you manage your time between your two roles?
ADRIAN: I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t manage at all. Both professions require an enormous amount of existential angst but they are slightly different flavours of existential angst, so maybe that’s what keeps me going; the variety. Of angst.
What do you think Volition does that appeals to viewers as it wins awards across Festival season?
ADRIAN: We’re all really proud of the attention the film is getting, especially since it truly felt like a labour of love to everyone involved. I’m just happy viewers can understand it! Believe me, there were many times on set when nobody knew what the hell was going on in the story except for brainy Tony, so when people started seeing it and getting it, that was very gratifying. I think people like having their minds bent a little and I think this film gives them that in a very new and layered way.
INTERVIEW WITH MAGDA APANOWICZ
What was the audition process for this role?
MAGDA: Mr. Tony Dean Smith sent me a Twitter DM asking if I’d read his and Ryan’s script. He had been thinking of me for “Angela” the past few years. I told him “I’m in!” Tony laughed and asked earnestly, “read the script first”. My lack of hesitation was the trust I found in his passion. Not to mention we worked together another lifetime ago when I was 18-years-old, in film school. I loved his energy then and his ease in directing. I knew I wanted to work with TDS again!
You’ve got quite a Sci-Fi filled resume. Do you think that Sci-Fi and genre TV & Film were offering more depth in terms of female roles as we see more recently the rest of Hollywood trying to catch up?
MAGDA: Vancouver has always been a mecca for Sci-Fi. Be it our gloomy sky’s and abundance of haunting forest or the Sci-Fi network based most of their shows in Vancouver. Either way, there was a lot of genre themed auditions I would go for, growing up. I have found, genre shows to be an asset to an actors training. ‘How do you bring a fantastical concept into a relatable story?’. As an actor, realizing the ‘out of our reality’ storylines are often metaphors for life. Finding the truth, the pain, the fight that people struggle with in their everyday life. I agree fully, Sci-Fi and Fantasy is where we have seen strong women being portrayed, first. I’m excited to see where Hollywood lands on the depiction of women and our parts in the world.
Fans of Sci-Fi TV will have seen you take on multiple attackers on Continuum were you hoping to show off those fighting skills on Volition?
MAGDA: Any project I have an opportunity to be physical or potentially do stunts, I am pleased as peach punch. I grew up loving Jackie Chan movies and respecting Bruce Lee’s fight skills. Actually, when I first started acting (in my teen-hood) I had debated on going down the path of the Stunt World.
What is your favourite thing about Angela?
MAGDA: That she never gives up. Chip on her shoulder or chipped nail polish, she’s a fighter. The conviction in her loyalty. If she cares or loves you, you will be a part of her fight.
What keeps Angela from running when things get crazy and then crazier? MAGDA: Back to my point above. James becomes a part of her fight. The two both felt like they knew each other before they ever met. That thought ‘I think I loved you before I ever met you’. When you find that person in life, you stick through things others might not.
What do you think Volition does that appeals to viewers as it collects awards across Festival season?
MAGDA: I’d have to say it’s the mix between good story telling in adventure with characters I can relate to and am invested in. A rollercoaster of emotions, a flavor of 80’s fun laced with sweaty bloody heart and mobster sheen… strap me in, I’m down for that ride.
How far did you or the writers take Angela’s backstory? How much of that can then be brought into the performance?
MAGDA: I’d say there was a combination of what Tony and Ryan saw as Angela’s backstory, then filled in the performance with my interpretation. Going in, knowing Tony saw me as his Angela for while made me a bit nervous to live up to his hopes but rumor has it, he loves what I did with Angela. Haha “you really brought her to life”. I think I got a sticker or maybe it was a cookie.
What does Angela see in James a guy who most might see as a bit of a screw up?
MAGDA: Partially just that, I think most people have always seen Angela as a screw up. Here’s a girl that trusts no one and feel like she’s always being used by someone. Runs into this Asshole. Two broken souls who saw a part of themselves in each other. I think that makes a twizzler. What can I say, She got dem butterflies when she saw that boy knocked on his ass with a bloody nose.
PIP ELLWOOD-HUGHESAUGUST 25, 2019
James (Adrian Glynn McMorran) has the gift of clairvoyance and is able to see things before they happen, making him a useful asset for criminal Ray (John Cassini) and his henchmen Sal (Frank Cassini) and Terry (Aleks Paunovic). Reluctantly agreeing to escort stolen diamonds, James is rocked when he has a vision of his own death. Assisted by Angela (Magda Apanowicz), a woman he’s just met but has seen frequently in his visions, James tries to prevent his death.
Volition is from director Tony Dean Smith who co-wrote the screenplay with Ryan W. Smith.With its feet firmly in the science fiction genre as opposed to horror, that makes this an unusual choice to be shown at Arrow Video FrightFest. For the first half an hour the film takes a little time to find its feet and you think you’ve got a very definite handle on what’s unfolding on screen. It’s fair to say that there’s little in the way of surprises during that time but then out of nowhere the film throws you completely off track with a rather clever twist.
I don’t want to divulge anything about the twist as telling you there’s a twist is a big enough spoiler. What I will say is that the twist changes everything and the film is much better for it. Until that point it feels like the film is a pretty formulaic crime drama with a supernatural edge but the twist turns it from watchable to utterly compelling. It’s helped by a superb central performance from Adrian Glynn McMorran, who really leaves nothing behind as James. He is frequently fearless but always sympathetic and he’s an actor I’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future.
Perhaps where the film could have been tighter is with its run-time. While the film is only 91 minutes long, the twist that kicks off the plot device for last hour becomes a little repetitive. I get that it was showing you James’ desperation with his actions but I could have done with around 10 minutes less. That being said, it does give a little extra screen time to both Magda Apanowicz as Angela and John Cassini as Ray, which is welcome. Both actors are strong in the film and they acquit themselves very well.
I’m aware that this might be one of the vaguest reviews I’ve ever written but to reveal the twist would be a huge disservice to the film-makers. Not being able to talk about it makes it very hard to say much at all but if you like film’s that challenge you and change your perception frequently, then Volition is for you. It may not be a perfect film but there’s plenty here to keep you hooked and the film-makers have done a good job of turning a seemingly pedestrian crime caper into something much more.
Cast: Adrian Glynn McMorran, Magda Apanowicz, John Cassini, Frank Cassini, Aleks Paunovic, Bill Marchant Director: Tony Dean Smith Writers: Tony Dean Smith, Ryan W. SmithCertificate: TBC Duration: 91 mins Released by: Smith Brothers Film Company
Perturbadora, intrigante y cautivadora.
Vamos a ir directamente al grano, Volition es una película de ciencia ficción. Nos decidimos a hablar de ella por la estructura narrativa que pasa rozando el género de terror y por algunos de los ingredientes que la componen. De hecho toca de refilón algunos elementos vistos innumerables veces en el mundo del cine y que tienen la particularidad de no entorpecer en nada la coherencia de una historia que podríamos calificar de demencial. Entre ellos la presencia de un mad doctor, cierto aire a una road movie y un amargo y atrayente regusto de oscuro y descarnado thriller.
James es un hombre visionario. Entre sus alucinaciones hay una que le aterra, ver su inminente asesinato. Todo lo que hace parece que le va en contra para, al final, tener que tomar una drástica decisión.
Estamos ante un film que podríamos calificar como redondo, en todos los sentidos, aunque destaca sobremanera un guion que raya la perfección. Los hermanos Smith (Tony Dean, Ryan W.) sin duda han encontrado la manera de intrigar al espectador, dejarlo atónito, hacerle abrir los ojos como platos y que acaben deseando que algo de luz aparezca en la espesa trama con unos personajes dibujados a la perfección, con el mérito de no convertirlos en estereotipos.
Aparte de todo esto destaca la manera en que está rodada. El director, Tony Dean Smith, se decanta por hacerlo de manera turbia, alternando la acción, en unos meritorios primeros planos, con momentos de necesaria pausa para poder digerirlo todo. Tiene un toque trágico que no es que le siente mal, pero encontramos a faltar una pizca de humor colocada entre las escabrosas situaciones que aparecen.
Los que nos seguís habitualmente sabréis que no somos para nada partidarios de que, una vez transcurrida buena parte de un film, se nos vuelva a explicar todo, dando la impresión de que al espectador le falte algo de materia gris. En Volition es necesario, básico e imprescindible. Con esto suponemos que ya os vais haciendo una idea de por dónde van los tiros. Ni que decir tiene que de vueltas de tuerca hay más de una.
Adrian Glynn McMorran da vida a un James a ratos desvalido, a ratos héroe, y en otros villano, en una interpretación de altura que destaca por la convicción con que está realizada. Diríamos que es un personaje poliédrico al cual el actor saca todo el partido sobre todo en el apartado más dramático. Le siguen, aunque a cierta distancia, Magda Apanowicz (El Infierno Verde), John Cassini (True Fiction), Frank Cassini, Aleks Paunovicy Bill Marchant.
Recomendarla encarecidamente a los amantes del sci fi. No bostante, el abanico de espectadores lo podríamos abrir hasta el infinito. Volition es una obra que os dejará un gran sabor de boca, y creemos que en esta ocasión podemos generalizar.
Firma: Josep M. Luzán.
by Alain Elliott
Stars: Adrian Glynn McMorran, Magda Apanowicz, John Cassini, Aleks Paunovic, Frank Cassini, Bill Marchant | Written by Tony Dean Smith, Ryan W. Smith | Directed by Tony Dean Smith
Less all-out horror and more a sci-fi thriller, Volition still fits nicely alongside the rest of this year’s varied Frightfest line-up… James sees his mother die in a car crash in a vision two days before it actually happens. Unable to stop it because no-one will believe him, twenty-odd years later he has come out of the foster care system struggling with life because he knows everything is predestined. He then sees his own death and follows a path that he hopes will stop it.
Volition manages to have an interesting, captivating and detailed story that could easily get really confusing but because of how well the film is edited and made, is surprisingly easy to follow. We head back and forth in time, always leading back to present day and what is happening in James’ world. It’s hard to speak about Volition too much without going into spoiler territory and I don’t want to do that. It’s definitely a film you want to watch knowing as little as possible. James meets a woman – Angela (Magda Apanowicz – Green Inferno), who soon becomes a big part of his life and someone he wants to change his predestined future for. Mixed-up with petty criminals, he’s not in the best shape to save his or anyone else’s life.
Volition gives off plenty of Memento-vibes. Like that movie before it, it has you continuously guessing where everything is heading while never throwing in a twist just for the sake of it. As you keep watching, each step seems logical and will keep you glued to your seat. I loved trying to work out what might happen next and then going back over things in my head. This is a movie you will want to and possibly need to, watch on more than one occasion.
Adrian Glynn McMorran as James puts in a strong performance. His character goes through a lot and McMorran makes you feel it all alongside him. The other most notable performer was Aleks Paunovic, who I’m sure plays a similar character (big bruiser guy that likes to beat people up) in many films – but he’s good at it so why not? He also pops up in another of this year’s Frightfest movies Freaks.
Director and co-writer Tony Dean Smith has few movies and shorts to his name, so it’s no surprise that this looks very good for what is, I assume, a low budget. There’s a really cool use of slow motion in a couple of scenes. Something that can come across gimmicky but really adds something to the scenes it is used in. One small complaint is I nearly always hate the use of CGI blood, and when used in Volition, it doesn’t look great.
Despite some familiar themes, Volition is a fantastic and original idea that is extremely well made for the screen. At times thought-provoking – would you lead your life differently if you knew it was all predetermined? – while managing to stay highly entertaining throughout.
Volition screened on Saturday August 24th 2019 as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest.
What’s the story: A man able to see the future is plagued with visions of his own death when he becomes involved in a diamond exchange.
What’s the verdict: Remember Next, that Nicolas Cage movie where he could see a few minutes into the future? Probably not, it was forgettable trash with a title that echoed Cage’s approach to his film career.
But, that intriguing concept of someone who can see snatches of what is yet to come is handled far better in Tony Dean Smith’s Volition. A Nolanesque treatment of key Philip K. Dick themes, this is a salutary example of how imagination and talent do not require a $200m budget to succeed. And fittingly, won Best Feature at the 2019 Philip K. Dick Film Festival.
James (McMorran, best known for TV’s Arrow) is a small-time hustler, using his clairvoyance to win comfortable sums on sports bets. One eventful day sees James rescuing stranger Angela (Apanowicz) from a street assault, before he is recruited to foresee any trouble in a diamond exchange being orchestrated by smalltime crook, Ray (Cassini).
But, with the assignment comes repeated visions of his own death. James, together with Angela, attempts to outflank what seems to be his destiny as he pieces together clues from his erratic visions.
As with Christopher Nolan’s Memento or Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes, Volition manages to play mind-games with time and space without leaving the audience zoning out in confusion. True, attention is key; this isn’t a movie to play in the background while flicking through your phone.
But, those who like their sci-fi with a healthy serving of smarts will be gripped by the story Smith and co-writer brother Ryan unfold.
Heavyweight concepts of predestination and freewill are at the heart of the story, but the brothers cannily weave in neo-noir detective tropes, well-staged suspense moments and a good old-fashioned love story to keep the audience engaged.
McMorran (who took a pay cut to appear) believably makes the shift from schlub to hero, while Cassini and Apanowicz breathe emotional life into fleshed-out supporting characters. As do Frank Cassini (John Cassini’s brother, continuing the fraternal connections) as Ray’s criminal cousin and Bill Marchant as someone key to helping James in his predicament.
Hopefully, the future is bright for this polished gem.
Written by Becky Roberts
Directed by Tony Dean Smith
Written by Tony Dean Smith and Ryan W. Smith
2019, 91 minutes
UK Premiere: 24th August 2019
What would you do if you could see visions of the near future? Bet on the boxing? Create a winning Fantasy football team? Make money as a fortune teller?
Lone wolf grifter James (Adrian Glynn McMorran) uses his clairvoyance affliction to aid organized crimes that he can see will go smoothly. But when an illegal diamond handover goes wrong and he accidentally involves a girl (Magda Apanowicz) he’s just met, James is forced to play with morality to try to change their seemingly dire fate.
A Timecrimes meets True Romance meets Looper sci-fi thriller, Volition delivers a tight and suspenseful plot that pitches the ‘a life by design’ concept against, as represented by its title, the challenging idea that one has the power and will to create their own course. James has seen his imminent death over and over, but while he is hunted down by mobsters (John Cassini, Frank Cassini and Aleks Paunovic) in the lead up to the fatal confrontation, can he find a way to domineer his own destiny?
A mind-meddling fusion of flashbacks, flash-forwards and multiple time zones, it’s inherently messy – but it’s well organised and cleverly considered mess. And while there are examples in the genre of more sophisticated and complex executions of alternate timeframe narratives – the aforementioned Timecrimes, The Infinite Man, Primer… – Volition pulls off the ambitious looper narrative feat with a keen perception and commitment without trying to bite off more than it can chew, promising twists and turns and reveal after reveal until its climactic end.
Winner of the best feature award at The Philip K. Dick Film Festival, where it fittingly made its world premiere earlier this year, director Tony Dean Smith’s Canadian indie gem (written by him and his brother, Ryan W. Smith) thrives not only on an enthralling, fast-paced narrative but also on the chemistry of its two stars, McMorran and Apanowicz, who you’re compelled to root for from the get-go. A no lesser contribution from Bill Marchant as James’ foster father completes the all-Canadian cast.
With an attention-grabbing plot and all-round performances in the bag, Volition is a surefire 90 minutes of thrilling indie entertainment.