Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movie Reviews: Solace

directed by Alphonso Poyart

Solace is a movie which initially makes the viewer think that it is about one theme before fitfully and eventually skillfully revealing another theme altogether. It's not quite bait and switch in my opinion because a lot of the clues were always there, if you bothered to look. I suppose you could be cliched and call this the thinking man's (woman's) thriller. It certainly fits that description, especially in the last third of the film. 

The problem was that the film wasn't quite as smart as it thought it was. It might have worked a little better to show things from the villain's pov. Although the lead in this movie is Anthony Hopkins, who does his usual masterful work, the other actors/actresses have such strong parts that you could fairly call this an ensemble cast. Depending on your belief system you may or may not believe that there is something in us that lives beyond our time on this planet.  

What is certain though is that each and every one of us is going to die sooner or later. Hopefully we will die peacefully after a long happy life. But there's no guarantee of that. Parents murder their offspring; good people die of cancer. Entire families are killed by a drunk driver; spree killers pick people at random to murder. Benign tumors suddenly become malignant; a brief lack of attention on the expressway can cause multiple fatalities. That's life. No one can know when and how his life will end. 

There's a lot of religion and music that suggests (literally) that one day we'll understand it all by and by (presumably when we've transitioned to the next stage just as a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly). Well maybe, maybe not. Job asked God why and was told to shut up and stop asking questions above his pay grade. The point is that on this world and in the time we have we don't have all the answers. We don't understand why evil (random and deliberate) seems to have such power in this world. 

One person who is trying to find the answers to these kind of questions is FBI agent Joe Merriweather (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Joe is a good guy-a real man's man with a wife and young son. 

Joe is on the track of a serial killer who invariably dispatches his victims with a spike to the base of the brain, killing them instantaneously. The victims don't seem to have anything in common. They vary in race, age, gender, ethnicity, etc. This serial killer seems to be a ghost. 

He doesn't leave any fingerprints or DNA or clothing items, nothing that could be used to track him down. Although Joe doesn't like to admit it he's at a dead end. Over the objections of his younger aggressive gung-ho by the book partner (and trained psychologist) Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish) Joe has decided to call in a favor from a friend. This friend is the retired doctor John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins). But it's not John's medical expertise that Joe wants. You see John is a psychic-a pretty powerful one. He's able to see the future and the past as well as read minds in certain situations. The problem is that John has lost interest in almost everything since his daughter died from leukemia a few years back. 

He and his wife (Janine Turner) divorced. Bringing John back may be necessary for Joe's case but it might not help the friendship between the two men. John has also, as some older people tend to do, lost all interest in politesse. He tends to say what's on his mind no matter how offensive it is. This may be a defense mechanism from the visions he has. Having visions of the horrible deaths of co-workers or people you care about can put the most placid man on edge. What puts Katherine on edge is sharing sensitive case information with a civilian and a man she thinks of as a fraud.

The movie veers into some pretty deep philosophical questions, some of which I won't discuss because of spoiler issues. But it is safe to point out that according to some models of reality there are an infinite number of parallel universes which are constantly created by the choices which we all make. 

So just because John sees something in the future doesn't necessarily mean it will happen. The trick, in part, is to find the common element among the visions, find what could change in order that the tragedy not occur. Of course, some things can't be changed no matter how hard we try. This brings up questions of predestination, free will and fate, which the movie only briefly touches on before heading off into the more interesting spoiler questions. 

Colin Farrell has a small but important role. Farrell does INTENSITY better than many actors but actually for this movie I thought the director might have been wiser to have him take a different approach. The camera work and cinematography of the film are impressive, especially when handling the artistic slow-motion flashbacks and flashforwards. 

You can really find yourself inside John's visions and memories. These can be disturbing. The film probably would have been better without an ending I thought was cliched. This was originally supposed to be a sequel to Seven, so take from that what you will. This was a decent film with not much in the way of originality. But as mentioned it does raise some interesting questions which we will all need to answer, either now or a few years down the road.
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