Asteroid mining engineer Troy Holloway (Steven Ogg) wakes up to find himself trapped aboard a drifting escape pod shooting towards the Sun. Faced with rapid oxygen depletion, Commander Roberts (Alice Lowe) on Earth leads a rescue party to save him. As Holloway’s hope runs low, Roberts, speaking to him through a weak radio transmission, is determined to save his life before time runs out.
We each have our own personal preferences when it comes to films and fantasy. I'm personally a sucker for Lovecraftian themes, creature features, and space-based sci-fi — not the Star Trek kind of space film but the space-horror sub-genre, Alien, Pandorum, Event Horizon, Pitch Black; the aforementioned titles being some of my favourite movies ever made. Needles to say that Solis was something that I had been looking forward to for a long time and was more than just excited for, plus I wanted to see what director Carl Strathie would bring to the table. We get maybe one or two titles like this a year and they are pretty much Christmas for me — a gift that you actually wanted and not just a pair of campy socks.
The first act is absolutely perfect; the set, the score, the telling of the story — all coming together to set the stage for the film which disappointingly doesn't boast a gateway to hell or mutated monsters, but beggars can't be choosers. This is a technical sci-fi and we need to happy with the lack of escaped esoteric entities; the plot — apparently — doesn't need them.
While we have a single actor (Steven Ogg) on screen for the entirety of the film, we do get to listen to the commanding and silver-tongued Alice Lowe as Commander Roberts. Lowe was a brilliant casting as she has the voice of an angel; melodic, motherly and hymnal. She juxtaposes Holloway's brash, sarcastic nature and their dialogue, which is pretty much the core of the film, is rich, emotional, and intelligent.
The plot itself is relatively simple, with the synopsis pretty much summarizing the film. I also feel that this is the reason the film has been somewhat poorly received. Very similar to, yet not quite explosive (literally and figuratively) as, 2013's Gravity, Solis drags on with very overly dramatic scenes and dialogue, like taking a full ten seconds to reach and pull a lever with powerful orchestral music adding hyperbolic, dramatic effect. It's a string of disasters and recoveries, problems and impossible solutions barely achieved ad infinitum. What starts as a very strong sci-fi entry becomes, in the later acts, unimaginatively repetitive.
It's not a bad film by any means though; the dialogue is great, the special effects enjoyable, the set realistic, the pace and progression solid, and the production value more than adequate...it's just a lot of rinse and repeat. I personally loved the score and the dreary space shots highlighting the insignificance of our species in the grander scale of things — our minuscule existence weighed against the vastness of the universe; our protagonist's admittance that he left his world behind to feel the emotionless void of space.
There's a lot of humanistic beauty in the writing and philosophy of the story if you are willing to scratch a little beneath the surface. It's not, by any means, a hidden theme...but neither is it sufficiently explored to be central to the film, which was unfortunate. The last act, while arguably the most intense part of the film, was for me the most lacklustre. Solis struggles to decide what kind of film it wants to be for the majority of its run-time. It is not enough of each of the entities it tries to be. Sure, it is dramatic throughout, but it fails to be the sum of its parts; never philosophical enough, never exciting enough, never existential enough, and never emotional enough. As a fan of the genre, I was more than left wanting and that is never a good thing. When your base is underwhelmed, you are not going to bring in the masses and that is just showbiz at the end of the day. Catch the trailer below. Solis will be available on digital download from December 10th. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid.
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