2002 Running time: 98 Certificate: 12 Rating: 4

Synopsis

George Clooney delivers a lean, gimmick-free performance in Steven Soderbergh's remake of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's marathon love story in space. Clooney plays Chris Kelvin, a psychiatrist sent into space to probe strange goings-on aboard a space station only to meet up with his late wife. A thoughtful, intelligent antidote to Return of the Sith.

Director

  • Steven Soderbergh

Cast

  • George Clooney

  • Natascha McElhone

  • Jeremy Davies

  • Viola Davis

  • Ulrich Tukur

Review

Don't for one minute assume that director Soderbergh's first foray into space casts movie pin-up George Clooney as a sort of Hans Solo for the new Millennium.

There's no looming, extra-terrestrial gunships, no phasers set to stun, no imploding solar systems. In fact, there's very little to attract the type of anoraks usually drawn to interplanetary hardware.

Because this is basically a love story...but a love story that happens to be set in space. Or to be more precise, on a space station orbiting the mystery planet Solaris.

Chris Kelvin (Clooney) - a sort of intergalactic shrink - is sent out to the Prometheus to find out what's making a group of scientists behave bizarrely.

He discovers mission commander and close friend Gibrarian (Ulrich Tukar) has committed suicide, while the remaining boffins - Snow (Davies) and Gordon (Davis) - display extreme paranoia.

Well, having had experience of IT workers, nothing new there, you may think.

However, little prepares him for the arrival back in his life of wife Rheya (McElhone). Firstly, he's light years from Earth and secondly, she died some years before.

The only explanation proffered comes from the off-the-wall Snow. "I could tell you what's happening...but I couldn't tell you what's happening." Thanks for that.

Rheya proves not to be merely a figment of Kelvin's imagination (the rest of the crew can see and talk to her) and a dawning realisation gets them very scared indeed.

It appears Solaris is a God-like entity that latches onto the strongest images in their minds and uses that information to create physically real constructions of loved ones.

It's not the sort of thinking that will see this carrying off the jury prize at the Vatican Film Festival but it presents a beguiling poser - can Kelvin have a second chance at love?

This represents an artistic collision between Soderbergh's art-house projects, such as Full Frontal, and mainstream efforts like Ocean's Eleven.

The quirky humour of Snow's character sits awkwardly with the solemn philosophical drive of the plot, but it's rewarding to see a movie which sees space as essentially the backdrop and not a main player.

Clooney banishes the throwaway jests of previous incarnations to play the tormented widower, while British actress McElhone brings just the right degree of dementia to her drama queen role.

It's a thoughtful, intelligent and very personal story. And not a robot that looks like a dustbin in sight.

Tim Evans

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