Director: Afonso Poyart
Words: R. Topham
Written as the follow up (of sorts) to 1995 classic Seven, Solace had a lot to live up to. A helluva lot. Although at a slight disadvantage because David Fincher wasn’t in the director’s seat, Solace just about manages to stay on the right side of ridiculous and offers a fresh take on the crime thriller, a genre which often produces unfathomably poor films. Ignore the bad promotional poster, because it’s actually a rather gripping watch.
Briefly, and not to give anything away, the plot goes as follows: two homicide detectives (Jeffery Dean Morgan and Abbie Cornish) on the hunt for a serial killer enlist the help of retired civilian analyst Dr John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins), a psychic who has eschewed from the outside world since the death of his daughter two years ago. The killings are so meticulously controlled, quick and clean that not a shred of evidence is left to work with. When Clancy starts envisioning the killer, he realises that he’s up against a man whose powers far surpass his own.
Stylistically, Solace channels the modernity of BBC’s Sherlock series, American Psycho and Fight Club. There’s lots of aerial shots, dramatic framing, somewhat overpowering music, and a bit of slow-mo thrown in for good measure. The camerawork can be shaky to the extent it’s dizzying, though I suspect this is done purposely to enhance the unstable and erratic nature of the characters and story as it unfolds.
Much like Seven, Solace delves into the complex concepts of human morality and mortality in a unique and intelligent way, regardless of your opinion of supernatural powers. It doesn’t rely on cheap motivational quotes about the deep-seated goodness of humanity to drive the narrative forward, neither does it just plod along without making any sense. It may seem farfetched that the world’s only two psychics just so happen to be in the same city at the same time, but their relationship is imperative to the narrative and is smartly interwoven.
What really cements Solace as a good thriller, however, is Anthony Hopkins being, well, Anthony Hopkins. The man is a masterclass in tense yet wise characters. Even as he approaches his 80’s, Hopkins proves good acting isn’t about age or appearance, or even the strength of a character on paper, but the quality of the performance. As Clancy he’s something of a Charles Xavier figure, and he perfectly embodies the tortured soul with a guilty conscience, the stubborn and stern old man that’s more compassionate than he appears to be.
Solace isn’t on par with Seven, because it never could be. But as the latest entry to the ever expanding catalogue of ‘original’ crime thrillers, it’s set an example of how to do the whole ‘psychic’ thing properly.