Just when you think you've got
director Steven Soderbergh figured out, he drops
"Solaris" on the world. After his unprecedented
success with "Erin Brockavich" and "Traffic"
(for which he won an Oscar), he followed up with the star-packed extravaganza
"Ocean's Eleven", which turned out to be highly
entertaining. Then came "Full Frontal"--a truly
loathsome picture which he was hoping to serve as sort of a sequel
to "Sex, Lies, and Videotape". It did not work out
the way in which he had planned. Now comes
"Solaris", a brilliant new science fiction vision, laced
with a love story and even a few thrills and chills.
Soderbergh, as it turns out, has many tricks up his very talented sleeve.
George Clooney stars as psychiatrist Chris Kelvin. When two
scientists die aboard a space station circling the planet Solaris,
Clooney is sent in to investigate. It turns out that the
planet reads peoples minds and uses what it finds to create images
and hallucinations. Clooney's hallucination comes in the
form of Natascha McElhone, his former wife who committed suicide
sometime before on earth. While aboard the space station,
Clooney meets the surviving crew. Jeremy Davies and Viola
Davis provide some introspect and even some comedy relief as the
crew of the station.
"Solaris" is a film about people. It shows the way
in which human beings can feel the same way towards the idea of a
person as we did towards the real person. Clooney knows and
accepts the vision of his wife that he sees is not actually her,
yet she discusses some of their most intimate moments and seems
more alive than ever before. We are also faced with the
question of what the planet wants and why it manipulates the minds
of the people who near it. For any further discussion or
explanation, I suggest you shell out the seven-fifty and see for
is a beautifully shot film ( it just oozes with polish and
professionalism from top to bottom), featuring strong performances
from both Clooney and McElhone, but especially Clooney in one of
his best performances to date. This is a very claustrophobic
atmosphere, which provides for some of the tension and a couple of
the jumps, but it is fairly easy to follow and understand, though
some have stated otherwise. I was just amazed at how
Soderbergh could so successfully package and produce a love story
between a man and a woman who really isn't a woman at all.
Yet, the romance and passion is still there, in some messed up
form or another.
"Solaris" seems more of a picture for a Stanley Kubrick
or an Anthony Minghella--not a Steven Soderbergh. Alas, he
pulls it off with incredible bounty and has produced one of most
visionary and emotional pictures of the year. I'm not sure
if this one will make the year's best list, but it should
certainly receive some recognition for it's accomplishments.
FOOTNOTE: I also suggest you read the book on which this
film was based, a brilliant novel from Stanislaw Lem, often
considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all-time.