Posted: September 29, 2015 in Film reviews

Directed by Afonso Poyart. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell, Abbie Cornish and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.


John Clancy (Hopkins) is a retired Doctor, he’s also a retired psychic advisor to the FBI, quitting both roles after the death of his daughter from cancer. Estranged from his wife and living a hermit like existence, he’s lured back by his friend, FBI agent Joe Merriweather (Morgan) to help track down a serial killer. Merriweather’s decision to involve Clancy annoys his partner Agent Katherine Cowles (Clancy) a psychology graduate who doesn’t believe in psychics.

Clancy reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation, but it soon becomes apparent that the killer (Farrell) is more than he appears to be, and Clancy has to accept that it may not be possible to stop a man who’ll always be one step ahead of them.

I get the impression that Solace was a script that had been floating around Hollywood for some time before finally being made. Rumour has it that it was originally written as a sequel to Seven (Or Se7en if you prefer) and if this is the case I can only imagine it’s been substantially rewritten because I can’t see how it would have worked as a follow up to that film.

So a script that’s been around the block a few times is finally turned into a motion picture by a relatively inexperienced director. Balancing this however is a decent cast. What we end up with is a film that’s interesting in places, but quite disappointing overall.

Hopkins is at once the best thing about it, and the worst. He plays Clancy with a curious detachment that makes sense in terms of the trauma his character has had to deal with, but which makes him hard to empathise with. The script requires Merriweather to remark several times on Clancy’s warm smile, yet this is never evident, and the film only really comes alive when Hopkins allows a blunt hint of Lector or Van Helsing to slip out, proving that Clancy isn’t just some kind of robot but not necessarily suggesting he’s the nice guy Merriweather keeps telling us he is.

Oddly Farrell appears more human as the serial killer than Hopkins does as the hunter. He doesn’t turn up until quite late on in the film, but with a combination of his doleful brown eyes and well meaning (if still deranged) intentions he makes more of an impression than his screen time warrants.

Cornish is very good as Cowles, she is a better actress than her generic blonde good looks suggest and slowly but surely I am forgiving her for Sucker Punch! Morgan is engaging despite not having a lot to work with.

Tonally and narratively the film is all over the place. At times it shows rather than tells us things, but then a few minutes later it’ll leap into furious exposition that isn’t needed (see Merriweather explaining about Clancy’s daughter to Cowles as they drive out to his remote house. It’s something we could have easily worked out for ourselves rather than being force-fed a miniature bio.)

Aside from Cowles, nobody seems to express any problem with Clancy’s psychic ability, which seems a big leap, and his powers themselves are inconsistently portrayed. At one point Clancy says it’s just that his instincts are a lot better than anyone elses, yet he clearly sees detailed visions that aren’t extrapolations of available information, they’re snippets of the future/present/past he can’t know about. For a time the film plays with a supernatural feel, but then seems to jettison this in favour of something that approaches science fiction, with Clancy now seeing possible futures, possible outcomes, and with he and the killer trying to out-predict one another. This leads to a couple of moments where the visions are utilised as a narrative cheat. The first time I was genuinely shocked and thought the film was about to pull the rug out from under us, it’s a great moment but from thereon out you know you’re dealing with the get out of ‘it might’ rather than ‘it will’ which drains the tension somewhat.

The director clearly wanted to make an arty thriller, something with grandeur, but in the end what he’s made is a fairly bog standard thriller with a decent cast, a few neat ideas and artistic pretensions well above its station. It lacks the unease of an X-Files or a supernatural thriller, has little of the tension of a Silence of the Lambs, and isn’t anywhere near as gritty as something like Seven. And as for the imaginative visuals that accompany some of Clancy’s visions, they’re interesting but in the end don’t have anywhere near the chilling aesthetic of something like the Hannibal TV series.

This isn’t a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, but if it’s Solace you’re after you might be better seeking it elsewhere.

  1. Hmm. I was thinking it sounded a bit like a substandard X-Files! I’ll probably watch it when it comes on telly, though.

    • starkers70 says:

      very much substandard X-Files, it’ll probably be enjoyable enough on the telly. I had the day off and hadn’t been to the flicks for a few weeks and there wasn’t a lot on so I thought I’d give it a go (I have a cineworld card so the more films I see the more cost effective it is, and this sounded vaguely interesting.

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