3 out of 5 stars
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For 21st century audiences conditioned to only accept science fiction movies that are action-packed thrillers, this is going to be a huge disappointment. It's more like a pre-Star Wars space drama--arty, thoughtful and jammed with meaningful themes looking at the subtleties of human existence.

Based on the same futuristic novel as Tarkovsky's dense 1972 classic, this tells the story of psychologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney), grieving over the loss of his wife (McElhone) and asked to travel to the planet Solaris, where a ship's crew has cut off all communication. So off he goes. But when he gets there he finds the two surviving crew members jittery (Davies) and paranoid (Davis). Then Kelvin's dead wife pays him a visit and he realises that Solaris has the ability to get well into the dark recesses of the mind. But what exactly is happening?

In this kind of film, that question is irrelevant. Because Soderbergh is much more concerned with getting under the skin of his characters (and us) by crafting a precise psychological drama about regret, guilt and faith. The important question is whether Kelvin will repeat the mistakes of his past relationship if given a second chance. It's a complex, layered story, and the film is beautifully shot and edited, with understated production values that actually suggest the future more realistically than lots of whizzy CGI. Clooney handles himself very well in a rare dramatic role; he draws us into Kelvin's obsessive mind nicely, although he's perhaps not quite up to the challenge of taking us over the brink. But this is Soderbergh's show, and he creates a slick and seductive internal thriller here. As long as you're not expecting something more exciting, it works very well indeed.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 25.Feb.03

dir-scr Steven Soderbergh
with George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies, Ulrich Tukur, Shane Skelton, John Cho, Morgan Rusler, Donna Kimball, Michael Ensign, Elpidia Carrillo, Kent Faulcon
release US 27.Nov.02; UK 28.Feb.03
02/US 1h39

What are you doing here? Kelvin has an encounter with his dead wife (Clooney and McElhone)...

clooney mcelhone
davis davies
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall