This is the second film based off of an old novel, and, while it is cliche to say this, I liked the first version better. That would be Tarkovsky's 1972 opus also called Solaris.
That might be the grander, more important film, but this one is significantly shorter, and not quite as pretentious. It's still quite slow and quiet however.
It's a film big on ideas, and yes, while it does drag, it's a great mood piece. If you have insomnia, this or the '72 film would be great to put on. That's not quite a knock, either.
Patience is key with appreciating this movie, but I think it's worth it, and Soderbergh is the perfect person for a remake like this.
Clooney is good, as you'd expect, and Viola Davis is decent, too. I also liked Jeremy Davies, whose "out there"-ness really brought a bit of levity, while also helping to get the mood right.
The plot could be a bit stronger, but overall, this is an alright film that fits somewhere in the upper middle of Soderbergh's oeuvre.
Very confusing film. SOLARIS, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring George Clooney, is one of those pointless remakes Hollywood has been making these past decades that adds almost nothing to the original classic. The movie itself is good. Not great or even close to being bad or a misfire, just good. Interesting but not really fulfilling. Some Sci fi movies are classics. Some are Legends. This one just doesn't fit in anywhere. If you're a classic Scifi lover of action, aliens and at least some kind of story - then I would give this one a skip.
Dr. Gibarian, part of a team at a space station studying Solaris, makes an urgent and self-described bizarre video request to his friend, civilian psychiatrist Dr. Chris Kelvin, to come to the station to deal with an unspecified phenomenon aboard, that phenomenon with which Chris' experience and background may be able to explain and solve. Chris learns that his trip is sanctioned by the space program as a security force had been sent to the station to investigate, that security team which is now missing. When Chris arrives at the station, he finds only two surviving team members, Drs. Gordon and Snow (Dr. Gibarian committed suicide), who are both acting nervously. Chris also finds two unexpected people there, the first, who Chris only sees fleetingly, being Dr. Gibarian's adolescent son Michael, and the second being Chris' deceased wife, Rheya. Chris and Rheya had a passionate relationship in all its good and bad before she committed suicide. Apparently, these appearances of loved ones of the crew at the station are what Chris has come to investigate. As Chris, Gordon and Snow discuss and argue about what to do, Chris becomes emotionally invested in this vision of his wife, who herself begins to realize she looks like Rheya, acts like Rheya (including having the same feelings for Chris), answers to the name Rheya, but is not really the Rheya that was once Chris' wife.
It must be said that this is not the film that the terrible marketing campaign at the time of it release offered - it is not a funky space-set romance, though it does take place in space and is a romantic story. It is however, a very slow, deliberate film. Only essential information is given and, going from a 61-page script to a 90-minute film, there is little dialogue but a lot of detail. Many will find it too slow and possibly boring and I do have to say its not a film for everyone. But there is so much here to appreciate. It is a film of mood and feelings, creating a beautiful and emotional atmosphere, in which events unwind gradually, rather than an intense plot-driven mish-mash of ideas.
Soderbergh's intention is to question the very nature of existence and of love - if you knew something wasn't real, would you avoid getting attached to it, even if it was the one thing you always wanted, more than anything? If it meant never seeing home again, but spending forever in a tiny space with just that person, would rationality cease to exist? Do we only need that one thing that we crave to survive? Beyond this, there are semi-religious overtones added as well - is Solaris heaven? A place where all wishes are granted at the cost of "human" life?
The aspect that stands out first and foremost the acting. Viola Davis is wonderful, Jeremy Davies is never less than interesting, and finally Clooney and Natasha McElhone deliver great performances, some of the best of their careers so far. Expanding his range even more after Out of Sight and O Brother Where Art Thou?, Clooney reaches depth you wouldn't have expected of such a matinee-style star. His Chris Kelvin is sad, intense, smart and realistic - the scene where Clooney wakes up to see his dead wife is a wonderful moment of acting, watching him try to bring himself round and shake off the image, only to realise its real. And McElhone is perfectly cast and surprising as the other half of the emotional core. Having been efficient in Ronin and The Truman Show, she seems to have acquired untapped gravitas and beauty in this film, looking absolutely beautiful in a very virginal, pure sense, belying the complexities and internal grief of her character. She too has many moments that just seem incredibly real, as if she forgot to act and just believed in what was happening.
The cinematography and effects are very proficient without being showy, creating a believable environment within which the bizarre events are grounded in a reality not so unbelievable. Solaris itself is simply gorgeous to look at, conjuring up images of planets and cells at the same time, hinting at a universality which is not one thing nor the other, but all things which cannot be explained in one term, again suggesting a godliness to it. And the music is brilliantly subtle, flavouring the images to give it that atmosphere of longing and loss and also beauty, never suggesting what we should feel but rather what the on-screen characters are feeling.
Soderbergh has made a very mature film here, eschewing the "cool" editing and camera tricks of films such as Traffic, Erin Brockovich, The Limey and Out of Sight for a more stately, sophisticated tone. It never feels forced or unbelievable and, while some of its twists are somewhat predictable, you dont feel cheated at all by the end, rather that everything played out as it should: dramatic and sad in places, beautiful in others, unsettling at times and ultimately quite profound. There really isn't anything wrong with this film, if you are in the mood to have a film wash over you and cause you to ruminate on the ideas of mortality, loss and redemption.