Directed by Afonso Poyart
UK cinema release print.
Well... there was some terrible, underplayed marketing put out for Solace but I was lucky enough to catch a trailer for it at the cinema, quite literally the week before it played. I say lucky because it piqued my interest enough for me to give it a go... which is great because it’s actually a pretty cool film and I can’t quite comprehend how, or why, most critics - armchair or professional - seem to be giving this movie such a hard time.
Neither can I understand why the production company has had the finished film languishing in a vault for, apparently, two years while they figure out if its getting some kind of a release or not. Seriously Hollywood types... did you not realise what you’ve got here? This is a smart and visually witty film that more people who are into these kind of dark thrillers should know about.
Okay... so the set up to this movie is very simple. The often brilliant, always watchable Anthony Hopkins plays John Clancy... a gifted clairvoyant who used to help the FBI out with their cases before his daughter died of cancer and he left his wife, retreating into himself and away from the world at large. His friend in the FBI, Agent Joe Merriweather, played by the equally watchable Jeffrey Dean Morgan manages, with the help of his partner, criminal psychologist Agent Katherine Cowles, played by Abbie Cornish, to persuade Clancy to come out of retirement and help them out with a serial killer who is giving them some trouble.
Clancy is hard to convince until he sees visions of the two of them in various states of, what he assumes to be, dying, and he jumps on board the case with them, very quickly using his psychic talents to lead them to places they never would have gone to without his help. However, after a little while, it becomes clear to Clancy that the man they are tracking also has the exact same, only much more powerful, talents that he does... and that their killer is leading them along, probably into a trap.
And with a plot set up like that, you probably wouldn’t believe that, at some point in its development, the powers that be wanted to rewrite the script a little and turn it into a sequel to Se7en... with Brad Pitt’s character metamorphosing into the psychic protagonist, no less. I think that the fact that this idea didn’t go ahead is a pretty much on the money, to be honest. Bringing supernatural elements like unlocked areas of the human brain is probably not a good mix with the gritty, more realistic world view expounded in Fincher’s earlier film. Solace is quite definitely doing its own thing and wouldn’t, I suspect, gel too well with Se7en in its aesthetic make-up. This is not to say that Solace is any less of a good movie, of course.
This film has a lot going for it. You’ve got the combined performances of Hopkins, Morgan and Cornish, for starters, and they all, as you would expect, knock it out of the park. Hopkins, particularly, gives an amazing, matter of fact performance which I really found myself identifying with a lot. It’s not so much emotionless as much as it is ‘damaged’ in terms of his character’s background... and you will find the full extent of the reason for that right at the close of the movie, when the main plot line has thundered towards its fatal end game. We also have Colin Farrell playing the serial killer in this movie and he seems pretty good too. I never really get on all that well with Farrell as an actor, truth be told. Don’t know why... just don’t seem to like his personality much, even though I loved his version of Total Recall a lot more than the original (yeah, I know, but they’re both complete alterations of Philip K. Dick’s original story and I just prefer the latter... sorry). As it happens, although Farrell is obviously the main focus of the investigation of the movie, he really doesn’t come into it until the final third of the film and... since he’s playing a villain anyway... I really had no problem with him in this.
The direction, editing and cinematography in this one is also pretty cool. In fact it’s quite unique in some ways, being a completely strange combination of shooting styles including long held static shots with the occasional slow zoom, frequent use of long and slow swooping camera movements and also, in almost a direct clash to this, there’s also some of that slowly reactive, handheld stuff going on like an observer is just catching something out of the corner of the eye and has to readjust slightly to catch it. What’s more, that last style of shooting seems to be reserved for cutting into some of the slower, close up and intimate scenes and it’s almost like the camera movement is a reaction to the words spoken out of the mouths of the characters... like it’s finding somewhere on a person’s face or body too look. I did, I have to say, find this version of that technique quite refreshingly interesting and, in combination with all the other visual somersaults in the movie, including a fair few 360º camera pans, I found it a quite chaotic but, due to the remarkable sense of editing, quite easy to follow style and I think the crew have done a tremendous job on making this, presumably deliberate, hodge podge of shooting methods blend and work so well together. Seriously interesting stuff.
Now, the film deals with the nature of precognition and all that it implies... which means the audience is going to be on their guard in terms of the end game of the film and it is fairly easy to figure out just how the denouement scene will play out. The director does try and distract a little by giving you all the possible scenarios in the precog moments (not to mention the many, almost surreal, dream trance moments)... an it’s not dissimilar to the science fiction movie Next in that respect. However, as much as I was sure I knew how the last major confrontation scene would play out in this movie... and it turns out I did... what did impress me was that this isn’t the ultimate twist in the film and the end prologue/coda to the Anthony Hopkins character, which I really wasn’t expecting until it happened, is a really nice touch and explains a lot about why Hopkins’ character responds now to the world in the way in which he does. Now, I was completely kicking myself for not even twigging this little character detail as, really, it something that probably is a really obvious thing in hindsight... but somehow it took me by surprise and my only excuse for that is that Afonso Poyart managed to distract me so much with the ‘leading you on’ nature of the main plot that I failed to see what, personally, I feel is an all important part of the puzzle of the film. So he really impressed me with this.
The music for the film, by somebody called BT, is all over the place and possibly that’s meant as a reflection of the shooting style... but I have to say, I really enjoyed it a lot and it’s a crime against filmanity that the score of this film hasn’t gotten any kind of release from the studio. C’mon people, this stuff needs to be out there! BT has ample time to shine because the director does seem to have a penchant for going off into those musically charged montages that are a firm staple of American movie making these days. Almost at the drop of a hat, I would say and it’s my one criticism of the film that I think the director could maybe have just cut down a little on using this kind of cinematic shorthand a bit. Saying that, I didn’t find it too distracting and it’s probably one of the better put together movies I’ve seen this year... might even make my 2015 Top 20, I reckon.
So yeah. Great little movie. Solace is quite violent and unflinching as it shows you the uglier side of the life that the main characters have to negotiate on a daily basis and the world and its population are portrayed fairly frankly by the director. If you are more into hearts and flowers, topped off with an uplifting ending for your cinema fix, then you might find this movie a little outside of your tastes. If, however, you enjoy a good thriller then I think you’ll find that if you seek Solace at you local cinema then it will be just your cup o’ tea... or at least a quantum of it.