Director: Afonso Poyart
Starring: : Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish
Running Time: 101 minutes
The trailer for Solace poses a fascinating question: “how do you catch a killer who can see the future?” Unfortunately, not only does the film completely fail to do its premise justice, but it also doesn’t really even answer the question.
Solace was originally conceived as a sequel to David Fincher’s masterpiece Se7en, but the script had to be rewritten after Fincher rejected the idea. It’s not difficult to see why. The film manages to be simultaneously ludicrous and boring, coming across as a bunch of particularly tired clichés from other serial killer movies copied and pasted together, and the script is lacklustre and predictable, to the extent that I actually found myself rolling my eyes every few minutes.
The film is shot as though by an overzealous amateur who thinks that obnoxious cutaways and bizarre close-ups are the same thing as good cinemography. One repeated shot of a coffee cup falling to the floor in dramatic slow mo is particularly laughable. The worst visual sequences, however, are Clancy’s physic visions. These are clearly meant to be visually striking and profound, with bright lights and bloodied faces intermingled with the repeated image of Colin Farrell’s killer standing before a neon cross, arms outstretched in a transparently Christ-like gesture. Unsurprisingly, these sequences are more irritating than striking. Vacuous and overly polished, they play out like a weirdly gory car ad.
Considering its impressive cast, you would expect that at least the performances would be good. Unfortunately, the acting is actually one of the worst things about the film. Anthony Hopkins gives an underwhelming performance that is one part Hannibal Lecter, one part ham, and two parts elderly man who really wants to have a nap. It was an odd decision to recycle so many of Lecter’s facial expressions when playing a protagonist and occasionally Clancy comes across as slightly creepy because of it. Joe keeps reminding him that it was Clancy’s smile that made the psychic’s wife fall in love with him, which seems unlikely considering that it’s more of a terrifying rictus grin.
Abbie Cornish, who was wonderful as John Keats’ fiancée Fanny Brawne in Bright Star, is also disappointing. She seems unsure of herself here, playing her character as oddly brash and macho, as though very aware of the fact that hers is the only female character in the film. Despite a scene in which Katherine breaks down in tears after Clancy uses his powers to lay bare all the upsetting parts of her life, she doesn’t demonstrate any growth as a character. This is a huge issue, considering that making sure the audience cares about Katherine is vital to the film’s ending, and I found myself completely indifferent towards her.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan gives a slightly better performance, in that at least his character is reasonably likeable. I was relieved that the one cliché the filmmakers decided they didn’t like was the whole concept of the ‘world weary cop with an unhappy home life’. However, as anyone who still wants to see the film will find out, the writers find a way to sour this one happy fact.
The only good thing about the film is Colin Farrell, and sadly I’m using “good” to mean “good compared to everything else in this terrible film”. Farrell’s performance as the serial killer the protagonists have been trying to hunt down is convincing, helped by the actor’s trademark unblinking, black-eyed stare, and, mercifully, the film becomes livelier after he makes an appearance. Unfortunately, this isn’t until over halfway through. Besides being a waste of a good actor, this decision on the part of the writers also makes frustratingly little sense. Farrell appears in the film’s trailer and posters, and he’s clearly identifiable in all the movie’s bizarre psychic sequences, so it’s not as though his identity is being hidden for a big reveal. So why wait so long? The only answer I can come up with is that the writers are terrible at pacing.
However, the most annoying thing about Solace, as I mentioned earlier, is the fact that the question posed in the trailer is never given a satisfactory answer. How do you catch a killer who’s always one step ahead of you? According to the film’s lazy writers, it’s simple: the killer comes to you. Apparently figuring out a way for the protagonists to outsmart him sounded too much like hard work.
Despite an interesting premise, Solace is a disappointment from the outset. A terrible script, poor acting, and a clumsily paced story add up to one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. If only I had John Clancy’s psychic abilities; it would have saved me from bothering to see it.