Directed by Afonso Poyart.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish and Colin Farrell.
A clairvoyant physician is drawn out of retirement by the FBI in order to help investigate a serial killer who may have precognitive abilities of his own.
The script that would go on to become serial killer thriller Solace originated back in the early noughties as a sequel to David Fincher’s pitch-black 90s classic Se7en. Subsequently, the film spent a long time in development hell throughout the decade and the script by Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven) received several rewrites, most recently from Frost/Nixon scribe Peter Morgan. Unfortunately, the end result suggests that you really can’t polish a cinematic turd.
Investigating a string of murders, FBI agents Joe (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Katherine (Abbie Cornish) are stumped by the killer’s bizarre method of delivering painless death. Joe brings in an old friend in the shape of retired doctor and clairvoyant John (Anthony Hopkins) to help. As John helps the agents get closer to the killer, it becomes clear that the perpetrator (Colin Farrell) is a clairvoyant too, ensuring that he can stay one step ahead of the authorities.
There’s a delicious premise at the centre of Solace. It’s easy to see why the concept of a clairvoyant serial killer appealed as a follow-up to Fincher’s terrific crime yarn. However, the execution of the idea falls at every hurdle, from script to performance to direction. Solace has the feel of a film that was initially moulded and looked after by its studio, but was then tossed out and left at the side of the road like an unloved family pet.
Anthony Hopkins, complete with slicked-back silver hair and his best Hannibal Lecter stare, is on autopilot throughout the movie. He often seems to be bored of the sound of his own voice and has absolutely no chemistry with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s gruff cop, despite their supposedly long-standing friendship. Abbie Cornish fares slightly better, but she’s no Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs and the film has a horrible habit of forgetting about her as if she’s a mere narrative device to facilitate the final macho stand-off between the good and the evil of extra-sensory perception.
The failures of Solace are doubly depressing given the initially interesting way the story unfolds. It positions itself as a mystery to be solved and teases nicely at a potentially gruesome climax for the story. However, the film quickly spirals downward as it nears its conclusion, dumping in second-billed star Colin Farrell as if his frowny-faced inclusion is something of a surprise. Then, in a move that could have been daring but transpires as utter nonsense, they have the ludicrous ending of the film explained in detail five minutes before it actually occurs, robbing it of any shock factor or indeed intrigue. Although, given how little sympathy the film manages to create for its characters, it’s debatable whether even a surprise ending would have worked.
Afonso Poyart, in his English language directorial debut, tries his best to inject life into the film, but Solace comes across as pretentious. The first time Hopkins’ character’s powers portray a shocking vision of the future, it’s a potent blast of horror. Unfortunately, the film leans on that device far too often and it very quickly becomes tired. It’s a classic example of a film that thinks it’s cleverer than it is and inflicts its crushing stupidity and silliness on the audience.
When the credits roll, the title feels sadly ironic. There’s no solace here. Only suffering.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★