"an intense survival story that demonstrates that you don’t always need a big budget to craft a solid sci-fi adventure"
A lone survivor lost and adrift at sea after a storm, alone on an island after a shipwreck or trapped in the mountains after a plane crash etc. We’ve seen this premise before but regardless of the setting, the core theme is almost always the same, that of survival in the face of total isolation and overwhelming odds.
This brings me to the subject of today’s review, the sci-fi survival story Solis, a film that takes this familiar premise and plants it in the vast void of deep space, giving us a film that while lacking in originality still offers a solid and intense sci-fi adventure.
Troy Holloway, awakes to find himself alone in an escape pod hurtling through space on a collision course with the sun. With his supplies of oxygen rapidly dwindling and his chances of rescue growing ever more remote, Holloway is forced to fight for survival while also having to confront the tragic past that led him to his current predicament.
At the centre of the film is Steven Ogg in the role of Holloway, the film’s sole on-screen character, a relatively low key performance that is a refreshing change for the actor perhaps best known his colourful turn as Trevor in Grand Theft Auto V. Ogg commands the film with his charisma and likeable nature allowing us to enjoy the odd wisecrack at this predicament, but also managing to let us peek underneath this exterior at a man who has been running from his past but now, faced with almost certain death, is forced to confront it.
It’s Ogg’s performance that is the film’s high point, with his presence on screen never once being unwelcome and it’s just a simple joy to see the man being given the chance to show off his more serious side, here’s hoping we get to see more of it in the future.
While Ogg is the only on-screen performer, Alice Lowe also deserves some praise for her work as Commander Roberts, who is leading the attempts to rescue Holloway. It’s a testament to Lowe’s abilities that despite her character only being a distant voice on radio for the entire film, we come to root for her as she commands and guides Holloway in how to stay alive, and we also sympathise with Lowe as she allows us to peer into her characters similarly tragic past in one particularly poignant moment she shares with her co-star.
The production design of the film is simply top notch with the costumes and sets, while limited in size and numbers, still manages to rival those of bigger budgeted films with the designs, with the film’s main setting of the escape pod especially being wonderfully detailed with an aged battered look that hints at a larger world we are only getting to see a sliver of. The film’s computer effects, while not likely to rival the likes of ILM, are still solid throughout, even if one spaceship design seems to be borrowing a bit (perhaps intentionally) from other films, with it looking like a hybrid of 2001 and Sunshine.
Despite the excellent performances, production design and effects, the film is not without its problems. The main problem with its premise that, despite being largely well executed, is not really enough to sustain a feature-length film. It’s a strange case of affairs that despite the film being only 90 minutes long, it feels too long and the film seems to know it with it often looking as if it’s padding itself out with long shots of the pod hurtling through space.
The film is also just a tad repetitive with it essentially boiling down to a seemingly never-ending series of problems that Holloway has to solve, with this approach becoming a tad boring after the hundredth problem and a half arises, especially when the film’s best scenes are the quiet character moments in between the crisis.
Thanks to a fine central performance from Steven Ogg and the overall excellent quality of the production itself, Solis almost manages to overcome problems with its pacing and premise to give us an intense survival story that demonstrates that you don’t always need a big budget to craft a solid sci-fi adventure. Check this one out if you’re curious.