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The supernatural thriller isn’t lacking for numbers, with the genre a breeding ground for mediocre, straight-to-video titles that have been mostly a series of copycats, with a few offering some challenges. Think of M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Sixth Sense or David Cronenberg‘s The Dead Zone. With Solace, a film that began early as a follow-up to David Fincher‘s Se7en before switching directions, this is a barely serviceable movie that comes up short in just about every department.
John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins) is a retired doctor, a reclusive man living in isolation for two years now after his daughter died of Leukemia. He’s also a ‘seer’ of sorts, able to look into the past and future of nearly anything he touches. He doesn’t call it clairvoyance or mysticism, but rather scientific, claiming he’s just lucky, having a better sense of intuition. He’s proven of great value to Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an experienced FBI agent who is confronting a new serial killer, murdering people with a sharp blade to the base of the neck.
Merriwether’s partner, Katherine (Abbie Cornish) is skeptical of his skills but is soon convinced when Clancy’s shown to reveal things about the case that would be impossible otherwise. As they come upon more victims and Clancy continues to see disturbing images, they draw closer to the killer, a man who Clancy becomes convinced has the same abilities, only better. Much better. They soon realize they are getting played by someone who not only knows their every move, but is manipulating them to fall into his trap.
Directed by Afonso Poyart, Solace is a curious mess, a film that can’t quite find what it wants to be even if it has a few good ideas and some solid performances. Unfortunately, none of it works, as the hackneyed plot feels hopelessly outdated and is so overwrought, it becomes almost intolerable to watch. As the film swings from horrific, graphic violence that definitely sees its connection to Se7en, it is also unquestionably pedestrian, trying way too hard make it more than it is. Does Katherine look so much like Clancy’s daughter, he feels closer to her? Of course she does. Does every single person Clancy touch have a troubled future? Of course they do? Chuck full of the usual tropes, traps and clichés, it tries to make a statement but is instead, a loud, aimless, experience that wastes its considerable talents.
I’ll start right away with the psychic powers, which is what they are and on a level like that of a superhero, despite how much Clancy downplays it. First, we are shown that if he touches a person, or they touch him, he can see something of their past or future, and of course, because the script says so, it’s always something terrible that is linked directly to the story. Why are visions like this in movies always so specific? And since everything he touches (and anything that touches him) produces a vision, how can he cope with life at all? Wouldn’t just walking on a sidewalk fill his head with a flurry of images? And why is it all bad? A friend shakes his hands and all Clancy sees it their demise. He tells Katherine that its just rudimentary stuff he can see, glimpses of a fragment, and that’s exactly what we see him, well, seeing. But then, because again, the script requires him to be something more, a few minutes later, he’s outright detailing every unimaginable detail of her life, from past sexual consequences with ex-boyfriends to feeling her parents have about her short visits to more, just with a single touch. By the end, he’s able to see not just the future, but countless alternate futures all at the same time, a trick that the film tries to fool us with more than once and fails each time.
What’s worse is the incessant pounding score and jump-scare sound effects that hover over the film like a dark cloud, desperately trying to make this seem like something far more impressive. Instead, it comes of cheap and un-earned, serving only to aggravate.
Is Hopkins good? Naturally. He sells he part and is convincing, as does Cornish, and even poor Colin Ferrell, who shows up in the third act and rambles aimlessly about mercy. But the premise is so ludicrous and the presentation so unbalanced, it succeeds only as a sterile potboiler that could have been a great thriller if they’d dropped the supernatural twist. Mediocrity continues it rampage through the creative fields of those with power to do so much more.
Director: Afonso Poyart
Writers: Sean Bailey, Ted Griffin
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish