Tuesday 20 November 2018

Solis (UK 2018: Dir Carl Strathie)

Despite its Hollywood sheen and outer space setting, the sci-fi feature Solis was entirely filmed in a studio in Yorkshire, which is as much an advert for UK technology in movie production (Goldfinch Studios in Selby, if you're interested) as it is for Carl Strathie, who has achieved quite something for his first feature, in the 'quart out of a pint pot' low budget filmmaking stakes.

Taking its lead from the David Bowie song 'Space Oddity' by way of Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, Solis stars lantern-jawed Steven Ogg as asteroid miner Troy Holloway, whose capsule gets caught up in an storm while on his way back from a job. Thrown off course and destined to collide with the sun, Holloway's only hope of survival is to effect repairs to his craft, receiving instructions from the disembodied voice of Commander Roberts (Alice Lowe), also trapped on board another ship, while his oxygen levels deplete at an alarming rate.

Beginning with a quote from a Longfellow poem "Look not mournfully into the past, it comes back not again..." Solis sets itself up as a pensive drama - themes of loss and remorse raise their heads from time to time - but for the most part this feels like a Boy's Own version of the Twelve Labours of Hercules (but on a spaceship), with Holloway facing a number of tests of endurance and tasks of increasing hardship.

David Stone Hamilton's rousing and heroic musical score does a very good job of convincing the audience they're seeing something more important than is actually taking place, but Solis is, when all's said and done, a single hander movie of one bloke in a lot of trouble and having to figure his way out of it, even if it's given the added frisson of having its ninety odd minutes portrayed in real time (Holloway's impending impact is calculated at roughly an hour and half after we first meet him, strapped in his capsule with a dead crew mate by his side).

Lowe, who was fantastic in both Sightseers and Prevenge, is sadly wasted as the voice of Commander Roberts; her rather flat Midlands accent isn't terribly dramatic, and although she's a great actress she's not really given a chance here. Steven Ogg, although no newcomer to the screen, plays lead for the first time and does well with what he has - was it me or was he channeling his inner George Clooney for this role? Sadly most of his acting is restricted to facial contortions and his obvious physicality, as evidenced via roles in TV's Westworld and The Walking Dead, isn't that much in evidence.

For a low budget film Solis looks great. The space capsule is pleasantly and authentically dowdy, and the shots of the silent out of control craft speeding through space to almost certain destruction are effectively rendered. But despite the high production values and the superb photography of Polish cinematographer Bart Sienkiewicz, Solis comes off as a slightly more upmarket version of the 2015 single astronaut in peril UK movie Capsule, which was similarly problematic in conveying drama and peril with such a limited setup.

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