Telekinesis. Clairvoyance. Telepathy. For decades, governments around the globe have investigated the possibility of using paranormal abilities as covert weapons against their enemies – and even their friends. In 1945, the Nazis launched the first effort to develop psychic warriors. Soon after, the Soviets and the Americans began to conduct their own top-secret research programs, including the CIA’s notorious MKUltra mind control experiments, to develop paranormal operatives, the ultimate tool for undetectable surveillance.

Those real-life experiments inspired this action-thriller, set in a deadly world of psychic espionage where the ability to move objects using only the mind, see the future, and kill without ever touching the victim can turn a person into lethal weapon, or a target. In the story, a young man and a teenage girl with extraordinary gifts take on a clandestine agency in a battle they can win only if they can change the future. A shadowy government agency known as ‘the Division’ is rounding up psychics for experiments designed to boost their powers and assemble the most commanding army the world has ever seen.

Unfortunately, almost no one has ever survived these trials. Nick Gant (Chris Evans), a second-generation telekinetic, or ‘mover,’ has been in hiding since the Division murdered his father more than a decade earlier. He has found sanctuary in densely populated Hong Kong. However, Nick is forced out of hiding when Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), a 13-year-old clairvoyant, or ‘watcher,’ seeks his help in locating a briefcase that she claims holds $6 million. To get it, they will also have to find Kira, (Camilla Belle), an escaped ‘pusher’ who is the only person ever to live through the Division’s experiments. Pushers possess the most dangerous of all psychic powers: the ability to influence others’ actions by implanting thoughts in their minds. But Cassie’s presence soon attracts the attention of the Division’s human bloodhounds, forcing Nick and Cassie to flee for their lives.

With the help of a team of expatriates with an array of special abilities, the unlikely duo winds a path through the city’s most secret corners, trying to stay one step ahead of a family of deadly psychics competing for the suitcase. Even more dangerous is Division Agent Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a powerful pusher who needs both the contents of the case and Kira in order to create an unstoppable paranormal militia. Outgunned and outnumbered, Nick, Cassie, Kira and their allies must figure out a way to outsmart Carver if they are to prevent him from carrying out his sinister plan.

The premise of Push – a world in which ordinary people capable of astonishing acts are tested and controlled by a secretive government agency – stirred director Paul McGuigan’s curiosity and sent him to the Internet for more information. Typing in ‘psychic powers experiments,’ he was cast back to 1949 with the Cold War is about to begin and covert agencies starting to experiment on what the brain can do. McGuigan learned that in the years immediately following World War II, the idea of the use of psychics for information gathering began to take hold in government circles in the US and the Soviet Union.

Packed with decent special effects, Push lands somewhere between X-Men and Blade Runner in its vivid depiction of Hong Kong as a techno ghetto minus only the incessant rain and flying cars of Harrison Ford’s greatest, and earliest, role.

With Fanning the future visionary whose jumpy features usually signpost yet another encounter between good guys and bad, director does keep his foot on the thrill pedal backed by snazzy effects and a throbbing soundtrack. While the plot is patchy and sometimes paper-thin, the action of bullets being stopped by hand, windows smashed by screaming, and fists of fury mangling opponents way beyond anything Mike Tyson threw in his best day does keep one engaged and focused.

Push is easy adventure stuff, not too taxing on the brain and with just enough sharp edges to keep you interested.