Before you ask this isn’t a film about an ice cream (that’s Solero) instead it is the latest offering from director Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. Although it’s set in space, don’t expect any face-hugging aliens or starship battles, as Solaris is more of a ‘think about it’ film.
George Clooney plays Dr Chris Kelvin, who is a distraught widower and physiatrist. He receives a message from a friend aboard a distant space station requesting his help. The space station is orbiting a strange glowing planet called Solaris.
On his arrival, Chris finds no one, only a trail of blood and the strange glow from Solaris. Eventually he runs into a skeleton crew consisting of two surviving crew members. They are the quirky Snow (Jeremy Davies) and ultra-paranoid Gordon (Viola Davis), both who seem to be more interested in other things than the visiting Dr Kelvin.
After spending his first night on the space station, Chris wakes to discover his wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone) is alive and well and laying in bed next to him. Shocked and stunned he initially thinks that she is a ghost or figment of his imagination, but when he learns that every one else can see, hear and feel her he realises that she is something else entirely – something unexplained.
Chris shocked and confused realises that Rheya’s arrival is something to do with the mysterious, swirling planet beneath them and tries to unravel the secrets of Solaris.
Solaris is a remake of lengthy 1972 film by Andre Tarkovsky, which by all account was more than a chore to sit through. Unfortunately this remake is also somewhat a chore to take in, with its endless shots of quiet people and camera shots just staring at the planet. Coupled with the lack of any action and only four principle cast members, Solaris is slow, long and ultimately unsatisfying.
The performances are nothing to write home about as George Clooney and Natascha McElhone spend most of the film just looking at each other with very little dialog or action. If it’s not these two looking at each other in a flashback on a bus or train, then they are looking at each other in the space station. There is a little too much of the whole blank other-world staring from both of the leads – we all get it, Chris loves his wife – enough staring! Only Jeremy Davies lifts the interest levels with his portrayal of the slightly twitchy Snow.
It’s a real shame that Steven Soderbergh chose to remake an obscure Russia film and waste some stunning visuals on it. At times the film is very reminiscent of something that Stanley Kubrick would have done – except with much more impact and thought. The 2001: A Space Odyssey influence is evident in the docking sequence and is nothing short of a visual delight.
Scenes such as Clooney’s infamous naked arse shots have gratuitously been added to increase interest in the film. Even those shots will not help it at the box office. On the whole, Solaris is wasted as it raises some really interesting questions about existential existence, but then loses it momentum by dumbing the theories down and trying to make the film appeal to a bigger audience. Which is a real shame.
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