Saturday, 26 September 2015

Review: Solace

World of Blackout Film Review

Solace Poster

Solace (thematic spoilers)
Cert: 15 / 101 mins / Dir. Afonso Poyart / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Oh, Anthony. Lending credence to the rule that it's better to be a busy actor than a meticulous one, the esteemed Mr Hopkins lands in our cinemas with a feature which is tailor-made for television. Starring as a retired, reclusive psychic who's recruited by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (a reassuringly disheveled New York homicide detective) and Abbie Cornish (his unfeasibly glamourous counterpart), the three set out to stop a mysteriously gifted serial killer, played by Colin Farrell (it's not a spoiler that Farrell plays the killer; that's in the trailer. In fact, the trailer makes a far bigger thing of this than the film does).

[ I'll also point out now that all of these characters have names but they really don't matter that much, so for the rest of the review I'll just be referring to them by the actors who portray them. If you write a story and call your characters John and Joe, you're not really trying. Although credit where it's due, Cecil is a pretty fucking solid name for a serial killer, even if you never forget for one second that you're watching Colin Farrell. ]

The first key thing here is that that Anthony Hopkins does have precognitive/psychometric powers, and despite the initial skepticism of Abbie Cornish, there's never any doubt over this. As soon as his character is introduced, we see his flash-forward visions and object-memory-replays pretty much whenever he touches anything (many of which seem to resemble a swish, post-modern car ad, but with much more blood).

The second thing that's crucial to the film is that Colin Farrell has exactly the same powers, but is using them to choose victims in a murder-spree. On a metaphysical level, Anthony and Colin are the perfectly matched foils for one another, locked in a game that neither can walk away from, but which they each feel compelled to win out of a sense of transcendent duty. Like The Joker and Batman re-enacting Se7en*1, the authorities and civilians alike are drawn into play with assuredly fatal results, but the film's key dynamic is between the Yin and Yang of morality, and ruminations on the justification of murder form the balance-point on which the narrative rests…

Well, I imagine that's the idea, anyway. What we actually get is a hackneyed detective story featuring some of the hoariest, cliché-ridden dialogue you've heard this side of a Channel 5 afternoon-TV-movie, and sprinkled with an ill-thought-out supernatural element. Director Afonso Poyart can't decide if he wants to make a tense action-flick or a philosophical thriller, and ultimately he chooses something that's not quite either.

The full extent of the psychic powers - much like the special effects which illustrate them - isn't explored properly, seeming instead like a toy which is occasionally picked up by an absent-minded child before being distracted by something else. And the pivotal interplay between the two leads (the point of the film) doesn't even appear until the third act, robbing most of the movie of its most interesting facet. Much more is made of this in the trailer, and then a bog-standard murder-hunt takes the place of the moral-quandary the story thinks it boasts. It's not often I'll say that a film needs more Colin Farrell, but there it is.

The presence of the supporting cast I understand (and to be fair, they're as good as they can be in their thoroughly undemanding roles*2), but I can't figure out why Anthony Hopkins has agreed to Solace; the role doesn't suit him and he doesn't commit to it fully, instead retreading previous beats from his big-screen career. I suspect he saw something special in the screenplay which he then couldn't quite bring to the camera, trying to inject an otherworldliness to his jaded psychic, but coming off like a confused old man who's just realised he hasn't read the script properly and now the cameras are rolling…

Disappointing, but in a curious way rather than an annoying one. The story at the film's core is fascinating, but I get the feeling that the cardboard characters and wooden dialogue are more forgivable on paper than they are on-screen. I don't think Solace is a particularly bad movie (script issues aside), but it had the potential to be so much more…

Oh, and the film's final flashback-scene would have held much more dramatic weight if it had been inserted ten minutes earlier, during the stand-off in the subway station. Just saying.

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Not really.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Probably a rental.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Not really.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Not really.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Anthony Hopkins starred in 1974's Juggernaut, as did Julian 'General Veers' Glover.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 The film's Wiki page indicates that the screenplay for Solace was initially intended as a sequel to Se7en. And it's a shame that didn't come off, because far more attention would probably have been paid to the final draft…

*2 And I'm not even going to mention Farrell's consistently inconsistent accent. Oh, I did. Ah well.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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