Philosophers have discussed for thousands of years whether humans have the free will to make up their own destinies or if each of us has a predetermined fate. As this question, along with the meaning of life, cannot be answered we leave it to be our writers and filmmakers to speculate and create possible answers to these questions. In Volition the question is raised, if one can see the future and their attempts to change it are met with failure, is there such a thing as a choice? In the words of Frank Herbert “To know the future absolutely it to be trapped into that future absolutely.”
James lives a seemingly unremarkable life, spending most of his days drinking and trying to pay his bills. Unfortunately for James, he was gifted with the power of foresight and feels cursed to a future he can predict but not escape. After saving a woman from a random attacker, the two of them become embroiled with a shady friend looking to sell stolen diamonds using James’ knowledge of the future. While using his abilities James sees a future where he dies and the two set off on an adventure to try and change their fates.
Volition‘s greatest strength and weakness lie in the rules it sets out for itself and the predictability of the movie once the audience knows the rules. Partial spoiler alert for the story, but something that is predictable from the first five minutes, the film contains time travel. So in James’ attempt to change the past, we see many scenes from earlier in the movie of characters, that we didn’t know was James, as well as “plot holes” being resolved. These create some really fun moments where the audience realizes how tight the script is considering it has multiples of the main character running around.
Where this becomes a problem in Volition is the film becomes readily apparent that James is the master of his own destruction and that his actions are creating the future that he sees. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy or, as the film speculates, the inescapable fate. Once this plot point is revealed, predicting the movie becomes quite easy which hurts the watching experience overall. The audience is just waiting for the next beat of awkward irony to happen to move the plot along to the grand finale.
Predictability aside there were a few times I found myself just marveling at how poorly things could go for James, much in the same way the events of The Butterfly Effect treats its lead character. Also in the same vein of that movie, I suspect that Volition may have given the audience a much tamer ending than the film sets up. In the end, the film does everything right in many ways but becomes a victim of the plot’s airtight rules. Worth a watch for anyone who ever felt like Marty McFly go off too easily messing around in the past and changing the future.
7 out of 10