I’m a sucker for films about time loops and time travel paradoxes. They have become a sub-genre over the past 20 years.
You know you’re a serious movie nerd when the phrase “quantum entanglement” doesn’t make you think of a college physics class, but instead, makes you think of recent genre films like Nacho Vigalondo’s Time Crimes (2007), James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence (2013) and The Spierig Brothers’ Predestination (2014).
As our daily lives and the technology that surrounds us become more and more sophisticated, these narratives seem more and more relevant. Honestly, they almost seem more and more possible.
Volition, the new film from writer-director Tony Dean Smith and his screenwriting brother, Ryan W. Smith, is a worthy addition to the time paradox sub-genre even if it doesn’t quite reach the lofty cinematic heights of Time Crimes or Coherence. It’s an enjoyable mind-bender with a solid cast that’s fully committed to the chaos unfolding on-screen.
If you haven’t seen the other films I’ve referenced, then Volition may work even greater magic on you. Given my vast experience with these types of “puzzle” films, I knew what clues to look for along the way, so Volition offered fewer outright surprises for me.
Instead of being ambushed by the twists in the narrative, I found myself enjoying each piece of the puzzle as it snapped into place.
James has been clairvoyant since childhood. He gets “flashes” of events to come, although he never sees enough to alter his future. The visions act as signposts — yes, that’s a nod to the Twilight Zone — that let him know he’s on the right course. When his recent visions seem to culminate in his untimely demise, James wants nothing more than to change his fate. He’s always seen his life as predetermined, now he’s hoping he’s wrong.
The days leading up to the vision of his fatal shooting are filled with variables. Two hoods are looking to rip-off a local crime boss and blame the robbery on James. It also happens to be the day that James meets Angela, the woman of his dreams, and in his visions. As these people enter his immediate orbit, James learns secrets from his past that could change his future.
So, the not-so-simple questions are: Can James tamper with one or more of these variables and stop his impending doom? Or do all his options lead to the same fatal conclusion?
In a recent interview, writer-director Tony Dean Smith referred to “choice points” — those moments in life that shape our character and our reputation. They are pivot points for our future, metaphorical fulcrums on which our lives hinge.
Volition asks us what we would do if we could change those pivotal decisions after we’ve seen the results of our choices. What’s the price of altering those crucial moments? Will we lose the things that we cherish in pursuit of a better future?
The Smith brothers make the wise decision to ground their fantastical narrative in real emotion. We believe it’s love at first sight for James because he’s seen visions of Angela for years. Our protagonist doesn’t care as much about the stolen diamonds he’s in charge of transporting as he is finding some happiness in his life, and that’s something audiences can identify with.
Volition has actual emotional stakes. It’s not just a genre exercise. We want to see James live to love another day. Does he? You’ll have to see for yourself. I’ll never tell — now or in the future.
Volition hits all major digital platforms on July 10.