Saturday, November 13, 2021


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2002
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies, Ulrich Tukur
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
The immensely talented and prolific Steven Soderbergh, followed his highly successful (and big budgeted) "Ocean's Eleven", with another feature which once again teamed him with George Clooney. This time around, the film also teamed him up with James Cameron and his creative team from Lightstorm Entertainment. The film is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel, previously adapted by Andrei Tarkovsky. Its narrative which takes place in the future, is focused on Dr. Chris Kelvin, a clinical psychologist, who is approached by a friend of his, Dr. Gibarian, to come to the Solaris space station, and help understand an unusual phenomenon that is taking place. Upon arriving at the station, Kelvin is informed that his friend has committed suicide, and most of the crew has either died or disappeared. The only remaining crew members are Snow and Dr. Gordon, both of whom showcase some reticence in explaining what is taking place. Once alone in his quarters, Kelvin dreams about his late wife Rheya, only to awaken to her standing by his side, which terrifies him. After sending her on a pod to space, Snow explains that replicas of the crew's loved ones have been mysteriously appearing in the station. When Rheya materializes once more, Kelvin decides to investigate what is bringing her to life and what Solaris, the planet is doing to the station itself.
This version of "Solaris" is quite different from its previous adaptations, since Steven Soderbergh marries his own perspective and universe, with what the premise of the novel has at its core. The planet and what surrounds it, which in the novel is described as an ocean, has a way of exposing the deeper, hidden aspects of the personalities of the crew, transmuting them into something that is visible and palpable, and yet not human. Kelvin, who carries within the constant guilt of his wife's suicide, and the constant love he always has had for her, suddenly sees himself in the situation of being able to redeem his prior actions and try to save this embodiment of his former wife. Even if at some point she's self aware and confesses that she's not human, and that she can't be and provide him with what he wants to develop, he's undeterred in his quest to save her. It's a fascinating film, one that definitely has its own rhythm, something that audiences didn't completely embrace, and yet this is a film that mirrors what the director did with "sex, lies and videotape" for instance, particularly on the pacing, and character development. Kelvin, much like Graham (James Spader's character from "sex, lies and videotape), are characters who are desperately trying to live with choices they did in the past, and how those choices had a profound impact in who they are in the present. Whereas Kelvin's guilt is constant and to a certain extent, defines his existence, imprisoning him, never truly allowing him to escape, Graham's life is changed by Ann's presence, and by what her insight, love and ultimately relationship bring to his existence. It's a film punctuated by intimacy, loss, romanticism, and also some thriller-like elements, that at times don't necessarily gel perfectly. It's nonetheless a fascinating film, featuring great performances from George Clooney, Natascha McElhone and Viola Davis, with an impeccable production team which includes the beautiful score from Cliff Martinez, production design from Philip Messina and cinematography from Soderbergh himself. Worth watching.