Why Volition is Your Next Mind Bender
Why Volition is Your Next Mind Bender - join us as we unpack, discuss, and solve this mindjob time travel movie.
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THiNC. is a little corner of the internet where a group of really smart (I know, because I debate with you guys every day!! You are hard to keep up with!!!) movie viewers clamber for something different, something outside the mold, and something really really smart. And man, we have found a ton of movies that destroy Hollywood day after day. Movies like Coherence, Clouds of Sils Maria, The Infinite Man, Bacarau, etc., etc. And if you’ve never heard of those 4 films, I just handed you 6 hours of entertainment brilliance, at the low low cost of $0.00. I know. That’s amazing. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE – because today, I’ve got a brilliant indie time travel mind job movie entitled Volition for you from the mind of Tony Dean Smith, that will pop your cerebral cortex square out of your skullcap. So let’s get to it shall we: Why Volition is Your Next Mind Bender Movie…

First, as always – in a little bit, this post will become 100% spoiler filled. But, if you have never heard of Volition, you can get a copy to own (wink wink, buy it. I promise you, it’ll make you feel goooood.) right here on Prime, iTunes, or Google Play (or for rent too. But really? Help these guys out a bit and consider it a donation to your future self and good new movies that will make you think.)

It’s a gritty time travel film… It’s as if Leonard from Memento was a time traveler instead of a sufferer from retrograde amnesia. And yes, that was possibly the best compliment I could ever give this movie. I know. Regardless, we watch as James (played by Adrian Glynn McMorran) attempts to use his newfound time traveling powers to save himself from a foresight of his own death. I really can’t say more than that without spoiling this unique Indie film. OK? So, watch it, and then after you do, come on back as we unpack this film from beginning to end.

Why Volition is Your Next Mind Bender - join us as we unpack, discuss, and solve this mindjob time travel movie.

Volition Movie Walkthrough

Jump1 – The movie opens as we meet James, a rare individual that everyone knows has powerful premonitions. Premonitions that come in fits and starts, but premonitions that always come true. Well, James has seen that Ray (played by John Cassini) will ask him to fence some diamonds for him… so when he does ask, he let’s him know that that he will, because he’s seen the hand off already. The problem is, these diamonds will quite literally be the death of him. (Or near death of him – the verdict is still out on whether or not his visions can be changed or not.) And when James stumbles upon Angela (played by Magda Apanowicz) who is being attacked, he has premonitions of her in the future. But to save her, he needs to scuffle with not only Angela’s attacker, but also some other random guy that appears out of nowhere.

Angela turns back up at James’ place, where they chat about the immovability of the future, about fate, and how dark their futures might just be. But when Sal (played by Frank Cassini) and Terry (played by Aleks Paunovic) attack James in order to double-cross Ray things begin to go all kinds of sideways. James and Angela make a run for it to a random hotel – but uncannily, while the two are out, the diamonds, which were in the hotel safe, go missing. Really strange things are afoot here, but it’s difficult to see the beginning from the end. Which, I think is pretty real world. Can you imagine if time travel really was real and you were just a tertiary impact of it? You probably would just check yourself into a mental institution and hope for the best. No? I have a hard time keeping my life straight sans time travel, I’d be lost with it in my life. OK, so where are we? Oh, right, Angela and James are screwed, because Sal and Terry want to double-cross Ray, but to do so, they need the diamonds that Ray just gave to James. But James doesn’t have the diamonds – like at all. Or does he? hahaha. To make heads or tails out of this chaos, James decides to make a visit to Elliot. Sort of James’ mentor/father figure. Specifically to the man who has guided and tried to help James since he was young.

Problematically, the key detail that James shares with Elliot is that he has seen his own death. “Where were you” asks Elliot… “Well, I was here, now that you mention it”… hahah. And with that, Sal and Terry storm into the house. And when everything goes wrong, and Angela attempts to kill Sal with a pair of scissors, she’s shot. Now, here’s where the movie amps to eleven. Elliot, in an attempt to save James and Angela both, injects James with something and – poof, he hurdles back in time.

Jump2 James2 jumps backwards in time, back to another time with Elliot. An Elliot with a shorter beard. We learn about the negative density agent and how it runs straight to the amygdala, and sends the user back to the time that they are thinking about, and concentrating on. Places of emotional significance. That in their tests on the rat subjects the rats would begin to anticipate when a new test was going to be run. A sort of clairvoyance. Better yet, we learn that James actually will come to Elliot and tell him to go find his younger self in a foster home somewhere. But he doesn’t remember having told Elliot to find him because he hasn’t done it yet. And after this, Elliot gives him syringes and more drugs, and sends him on his way.

Jump3James3 sneaks up on James1 and Angela, pays off some debts for himself (which was fairly magnanimous of him to do) and steals his own car keys, though he couldn’t get to the diamonds. James3 accidentally dropped Ray’s fabric store card and hotel key, which Sal and Terry find. And James3 jumps.

Why Volition is Your Next Mind Bender - join us as we unpack, discuss, and solve this mindjob time travel movie.

Jump4 – James4 arrives on the floor of the restaurant where James1 and Angela have their first dinner out together. James4 runs out of the restaurant and over to the hotel where James1 had stashed the diamonds in the room’s safe. But as he arrives at the door, he realizes that he lost the key, and is attacked by Sal and Terry. But James4 cracks Terry over the head, gets his gun, snags the diamonds, and books it to Elliot’s house. James4 preps Elliot for what is on it’s way right now (which, is everyone, including several more Jameses.)

Outside, James4 has his gun aimed at Sal, while inside, Angela is wielding her scissors and Sal is about to shoot Angela. So obviously! James4 is going to get Sal! But he doesn’t, he’s shot just as he’s about to pull the trigger. Wait, what? But, by whom? In my notes, as I was originally watching I scrawled, “Did James5 just shoot himself?!?” I was convinced that that is what happened. (But we learn in two jumps that it was actually Terry who shoots James5 accidentally.) Well, obviously, Angela lunges at Sal, and is shot down. And simultaneously James1 and James4 jump.

Jump5 – This time though (!) he’s got a different idea. Now he knows he needs to stop James1 from meeting Angela in the first place. That way, she won’t get killed. But the question that this movie brings up, as most time travel movies do, is this, can we change our fates? Or are our fortunes locked in deterministic chains? But when James5 attempts to attack his prior self, he’s easily discarded by his “younger” self. hahah. And we saw this in round 1, this random hooded guy, attacking James1 out of the blue. And when James5 crashes to the ground, the syringe stabs him in the gut and injects him with another dose.

Jump6 – This time, James5 must have been thinking about Elliot’s house, because that is where James6 arrived. And there was a lot of retrospection with regard to our inabilities to change our fate. James told his mother that she was going to die, and yet still, she stepped forward anyway, in spite of the spectre of death. “The adversity was there, forcing us to define ourselves. Not by our mistakes in the past, but by our choices in the present. Maybe it is that simple.” And like that, we know that James6 is going to throw himself in front of the bullet for Angela. So we watch as a James is shot (honestly lost track of which one) and then James6 comes barreling through attempting to save Angela one last time. He does though, manage to make it so Angela is shot in the shoulder? Is that a different location than previously? And James6 is tended to by Sal, who had just shot him two or three times, I lost track. Well, not him, but the various hims. If you know what I mean.

Why Volition is Your Next Mind Bender - join us as we unpack, discuss, and solve this mindjob time travel movie.

The Ending of Volition Discussed & Explained

Here’s where things get a little dicey for me mentally. We’ve got James6 lying on the floor, shot. Ray has the diamonds, who was given them by Sal – they were found under a bed in basement. But Terry and Sal were always planning to slit Ray’s throat, and steal the diamonds. So when Terry shoots Ray in the head and takes the diamonds, one more of James’ prophecies has come true. And while Terry and Sal are talking through what they should do with James. But, poof, James6 jumps back to Elliot’s lab. And now, James7 tells Elliot to find himself at an orphanage. And there on the floor, James7 dies there with Elliot.

Cut to a montage scene of James1 and Angela hanging out together, his mother, Elliot, and ultimately we watch as Angela is shot in the shoulder again, and James5 is laying the bushes. And there he is, ready to jump! BUT HE DOESN’T. Wait, what? If James5 doesn’t jump, then James6 and James7 don’t exist? Maybe they do, I don’t really know. But it would make sense that they don’t. And if they don’t, then he never tells Elliot to go and find himself at an orphanage. And we lose the futile leap in front of another bullet. So here is shot James5 and he is thinking that he needs to allow the chaos and difficulties of life, not cripple him, but define him as stronger than. And he does, he gets up, leaves the syringe behind, and walks into the house. Turns to the kitchen, and smiles at Angela there on the floor. And Angela smiles back. Roll credits.

Alright. Wait what? I gotta admit, I’ve watched this movie three times now. Two times, and I didn’t get the ending. I’ve even spoken with the screenplay author and director, but when I did, I really had no idea what was going on. So I’m embarrassed with some of the things I said to him! hahah. But it’s a credit to the movie’s complexity that it takes that much concentration and focus to really squeeze the essence out of this thing.

The Key to this film is the question of fate. Are we fated and predestined – determined – to live out the life that was slotted for us? Or, can we change our fates and decide for ourselves. Better yet, James realizes that he needs to not be defined by his hardships, and instead, rise above the adversity in his past, but by his choices in the present. And James5, realizes this, and decides to leave the jumping behind, and to make the best of the life in front of him.

Final Thoughts on Volition

The movie begins and ends with the word Volition – which, as I mentioned, means the ability to use one’s will. The film had to allow James to change his fate, didn’t it? But it literally took me three viewings to find how the change worked. So I’m really not nearly as smart as I thought I was! hahah. Regardless, the film was a very clever puzzle. A fantastic little indie film that is worthy of our time, our up-votes, and our kudos. Great job Tony Dean Smith – thanks for taking us on this really great ride.

Edited by: CY

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2 Responses

  1. deKev

    Initially, I was annoyed by the ending. By allowing the protagonist to have volition to change his otherwise doomed destiny, I thought the filmmakers had chickened out at the last minute and gone with a happy ending, one in which our hero survives and gets the girl too. That’s because by allowing an alternate timeline so late in the game, it calls into question the movie’s time travel mechanics, meticulously set up by all that has gone on before in the entire film.

    But after giving it a bit more thought, I’m not so sure anymore, because the ending as it is, not only demonstrates that the very idea of volition is still possible even under such rigid and unforgiving time travel conditions (remember In the Shadow of the Moon?), it also shows the filmmakers have volition of their own, by having total control over the outcome of their own script, rather than have the strict mechanics dictate the outcome. So hmmm, I think I like this movie more for the ‘cheap ending’, er, I meant ‘unconventional ending’.

    And oh, Taylor, you mentioned a possible grandfather paradox plot hole that if James5 doesn’t jump to 6th and 7th, there’ll be no dying James7 telling the younger professor to adopt kid James, which means there’ll likely not be any James1 to begin with? I think there’s a way around this, because after the movie ends, off-screen James5, the one who creates an alternate timeline and gets the girl, can always jump back to do what the original James7 did, and that is to make sure young James gets adopted by Elliot.

    Now if we think a bit further along this line, it is logical to think James might even attempt to jump waaaay back to save his mother from the car wreck. Yes? IMHO, I suspect he did or will do exactly that, even if it means risking The Butterfly Effect thereon. That’s because the movie explicitly shows that our hero’s precognition ability is derived from his future self being in the same time and space of his present/past self, and quantum entanglement or something further explains that present/past self is then able to experience what future self has already experienced. So for kid James to have a premonition of his mother dying in a wreck, his future self must have been around the time and place of the accident, right?

    Also, the fact that the bad guys know about his precog ability should also infer that James must has jumped back in time numerous times throughout his life? Possible plot holes or am I missing something obvious here?

    In any case, I absolutely love movies that continue to play on in the mind long after the credits roll… yes!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Totally, 100% – I’ll come back and comment properly in a bit. But I’m currently posting an interview I did with Tony Dean Smith about Volition. You might get a few answers there as well… I’ll yell once the interview is up.

      Reply

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