Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Solaris (2003)

"Solaris" is not what it appears.

The suits at 20th Century Fox must have been in heaven when they landed a science fiction flick from the guys behind "Ocean's Eleven" and "The Terminator" - box office gold, surely?

Poor mugs. The first preview screening would have been a rude crash-landing. For whatever else "Solaris" is - thoughtful, moving, intelligent - box-office friendly it isn't.

Soul-searching existentialist angst, anyone? A meditation on loss and mourning? Hello, anyone out there?

Really, the suits should have known better. For while James Cameron may be involved as producer, this is very much a Steven Soderbergh movie. And Soderbergh movies are never ordinary.

Based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem (already filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972), "Solaris" stars George Clooney as Chris Kelvin, a psychologist sent to investigate mysterious events on Prometheus, a space station orbiting the eponymous planet.

Already scarred by death - he's haunted by memories of his late wife (the suitably otherworldly Natascha McElhone) - Kelvin arrives to find a friend dead and two bemused crew members who won't cooperate. Soon, the mystery envelopes him, too.

Tense and stately, "Solaris" explores Big Ideas: fate, faith, predestination, memory, love, God, and the afterlife.

Anchoring the metaphysical musing is Clooney, who zings with his usual charisma in flashback, but subdues his sparkle to excel as the hollowed out, traumatised widower, gutted by grief.

It's an excellent performance, providing the heart to match Soderbergh's brain.

The director - who also wrote, shot, and cut the movie - collates everything with typical finesse.

True, if you go looking for sci-fi thrills, you'll be disappointed. This requires patience and a good deal more empathy than "T2".

But place yourself in the action and you'll discover one of the finest science fiction films since "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Much like the planet itself, "Solaris" relies on what you bring to it.

End Credits

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Steven Soderbergh

Stars: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis, Ulrich Tukur

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Length: 98 minutes

Cinema: 28 February 2003

Country: USA

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