Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Two behind the scenes featurettes; The
script; Commentary by Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron.
GEORGE Clooney and Steven Soderbergh have rapidly become two
of the most important filmmakers in the industry today, a mainstream
duo willing to take risks in all areas of the profession.
Solaris marks the third collaboration between Clooney, the actor,
and Soderbergh, the director, and is another incredibly stylish
effort, even though it heralds a complete change of direction
for both of them.
A supremely entertaining slice of psychological science fiction,
it is the type of film that audiences will either buy into completely,
or depart thinking it a complete waste of time; a movie which
owes a lot to the Stanley Kubrick school of filmmaking, with its
measured, deliberate style and ability to provoke intelligent
debate about the nature of love, loss, religion and fate.
US audiences have already turned their back on it, no doubt confused
by the misleading marketing (this is no Star Wars or Event Horizon),
yet for those who are willing to explore its themes, Solaris makes
for extremely riveting cinema.
Based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem, the film finds Clooney as
Dr Chris Kelvin, a man still struggling to come to terms with
the death of his wife (Natascha McElhone), who agrees to investigate
the unexplained behaviour of a small group of scientists aboard
the space station Prometheus, near the planet Solaris, who have
cut off all communication with Earth.
Arriving alone, he is shocked to find that the crews captain,
Gibarian, has committed suicide, and that the remaining crew members
are exhibiting signs of extreme stress and paranoia without being
able to properly explain them.
It isnt long before Kelvin, too, becomes trapped by the
mysteries surrounding the planet, while also being offered a second
chance at love and the possibility of changing the course of a
past relationship that has caused him overwhelming guilt and remorse.
Solaris, while bearing all the ultra-stylish visual hallmarks
of a Soderbergh film, is a far more serious affair than the likes
of Out Of Sight and Oceans
For starters, the usually charismatic Clooney is relatively subdued,
appearing as a broken, vulnerable man from the outset, and a million
miles away from the smooth-talking ladies man of old.
It is a part which requires few words and a great deal of inner
searching which, in the hands of a less accomplished actor, runs
the risk of alienating audiences. Instead, it strikes a near-perfect
balance between emotional despair and the need for scientific
McElhone, too, is suitably sultry as the object of Kelvins
obsession and it is easy to see why her death could prompt so
Yet while the performances are without fault, it is the direction
the picture takes during its latter stages, as answers
become replaced with more questions, and the truth
about Solaris becomes blurred, that audiences are likely to have
their patience tested, as Soderbergh requires viewers to arrive
at their own conclusions, based around the choices made by Kelvin.
Just what is Solaris? What does it represent? Is it a state of
purgatory? Or, as Soderbergh himself puts it, is it merely a convenient
and wonderful metaphor for anything that you don't understand.
It is a concept that audiences should have fun unravelling because,
as Gibarian puts it in one of the movie's dream sequences, 'there
are no answers, only choices'.
This is clearly a personal project for all concerned and one
which isnt interested in pandering to the masses. It is
a risk which makes the film all the more satisfying for its refusal
to cop out.
From here, the Clooney/Soderbergh partnership moves on to the
formers directorial debut, Confessions
of a Dangerous Mind, while also being responsible for Todd
Haynes Far From Heaven
(as producers) - another two projects which are generating much
So while they appear to have waved goodbye to the mainstream,
for now, their place among Hollywoods filmmaking elite has
seldom seemed so clear. Solaris is another essential chapter in
the art of making intelligent cinema.