Director: Tony Dean Smith
Writers: Tony Dean Smith, Ryan W. Smith
Cast: Adrian Glynn McMorran, Magda Apanowicz, John Cassini, Frank Cassini, Bill Marchant
Producers: Ryan Smith, Tony Dean Smith
Music: Matthew Rogers
Cinematography: Byron Kopman
Editor: Tony Dean Smith
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 91mins
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.