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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Trieste S+F review – Solis

My notes on Solis

A spam-in-a-can disaster-and-endurance-in-space picture, trailing somewhere in the debris tail of Gravity, writer-director Carl Strathie’s Solis has a nice feel for the physical ordeal – and gets some tension from the contrast between the agonised, wounded fumbling of a lone space miner trying to get his escape capsule’s systems to function and the coolly automated computer voices which keep telling him his frammistat is down to 0.01% functionality and loss of life functions is an inevitable risk.  After an accident, Troy Holloway (Steven Ogg) – who is part of a crew mining ores on asteroids – is stuck in the EEV Khapera with a dead colleague, freezing to death because of a coolant leak but on course for the sun and a likely frying-pan-into-the-fire transfer.  His sole contact is a female voice at the end of a comm link, who claims to be Commander Roberts (Alice Lowe) of the Hathor-19, though she’s not the commander Troy would like to talk with and he has the sneaking suspicion she’s not qualified to talk him through his very bad day, which includes the likelihood of radiation poisoning if the cold, the heat, the lack of air, the flying debris, loss of blood, or meteor hits don’t get him first.  The film loses its grip slightly in the repetitive interplay between Troy and Roberts, who segue too easily from techspeak to sharing personal bad relationship stories as if all this danger in space weren’t enough to hold the interest.

 

A potentially interesting angle is that Roberts has been ordered to be gung ho about rescuing an ordinary grunt in order to keep the company’s mining options open rather than shutting down the profitable program – but that comes over as the sort of cynicism which has been rote since Alien.  Ogg gets to float around inside and outside the Khapera, performing one tricky bit of work on the darkside of the pod as it rolls to expose him to the deadly sun, and Strathie remembers to cut back to the cracks in the dome window, the minor but hampering wounds Troy has sustained, and the creaking hull to stress how short-term survival prospects are.  Compensating for a low budget evident only in the limited cast and inside-a-capsule set, there’s a big score and quite impressive space effects – especially towards the end.  We get a few too many familiar moments – the hero finding a battered snapshot of his dead comrade’s family and tucking it back in the corpse’s spacesuit is a straight lift from WWII movies and feels wrong for even the near future (if not a digital hologram, at least laminate the photo).  There are, of course, only a very limited number of outcomes a story like this can have – to my mind, it picks Option Three, but your space mileage may vary.

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