Solaris (2003) (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/02/2003

Four out of five stars
Running time: 94 mins

Thoughtful, moving, impressively-directed sci-fi with a great performance by Clooney – the pace may be off-putting but this is a deeply rewarding film.

Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Solaris died a death in the States after a misleading ad campaign led viewers to expect a fast-moving ‘love-story in space’ kind of thing. After all, it had James ‘Titanic’ Cameron’s name on it (he’s the producer) – surely it was bound to be an action-packed effects bonanza? Things got worse when a fuss was made over whether Clooney’s two “naked arse” scenes would affect the film’s rating, in what was widely seen as a desperate attempt to drum up interest in the film.

Now that the film has finally arrived in Europe, however, both Clooney and Soderbergh are tirelessly treading the publicity trail and –rightfully- pointing out that Solaris is as far from the typical Hollywood blockbuster as it’s possible to get. Seeing the film less as a remake of Tarkovsky’s 1972 two and a half hour epic masterpiece (frequently referred to as the ‘Russian 2001’) and more as a re-interpretation of Stanislaw Lem’s original novel, Soderbergh has delivered a film that is thoughtful, moving and breath-taking to look at, with an impressive performance by Clooney.

Not-Too-Distant Future

The film is set in the not-too-distant future. George Clooney plays psychologist Chris Kelvin, who has recently lost his wife Rheya, played by Natascha McElhone. He is sent to investigate Prometheus, a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. When he arrives, he discovers that one of the crew has committed suicide and that the others are paranoid and afraid. He is also somewhat surprised to find that his wife is there too…

On a purely technical level, the film is astonishing. Soderbergh wrote, directed, edited and shot the film himself and it contains sequences that are nothing short of breath-taking, such as the docking sequence near the beginning. Appropriately, there are several nods to 2001 in both the set design and the general feel of the film. The effects, though used sparingly, are impressive here too, particularly the shots of Solaris itself.

Ocean’s 11 In Space?

Clooney is excellent, foregoing his usual charming, wise-cracking persona (‘Ocean’s 11 In Space’ this isn’t) and instead delivering a haunted, complex performance. McElhone too gives perhaps her best performance to date (though this isn’t hard) – she has a slightly sort of blank other-wordly stare that actually adds to her role here.

There’s able support too from both Viola Davis and Jeremy Davies, whose performance is irritatingly mannered, yet ultimately impressive.

The film is extremely slow-moving – it’s odd that a 94 minute remake can seem as long as the 165 minute original – but, though it may be off-putting to certain sections of the audience, the pacing is integral to the dream-like atmosphere of the film. Again, this is something it shares with 2001. The film also has an excellent soundtrack that makes great use of silence or background machine noise, as well as a sparingly-used, electronic score by Cliff Martinez.

Ultimately, this is a moving meditation on love, loss, pain and grief. It looks fantastic, is well-acted and will send you out of the cinema with something to think about. And, oh yes, the famous “arse shots” – they’re present and correct, if almost entirely gratuitous...

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Solaris (2003) (12A)
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Content updated: 21/10/2017 09:31

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