Solis is the first feature-length sci-fi from writer/director Carl Stathie (Hollows, Glitch and the upcoming Dark Encounter) and stars Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead, Grand Theft Auto V) as Troy Holloway who is having a very, very bad day on the job.
Following an accident on an asteroid mining platform, he is the only survivor, trapped in an antique escape pod with no engines or navigation and only a corpse for company. His one lifeline is his intermittent radio contact with the inexperienced and by-the-book Commander Roberts (Alice Lowe) onboard another ship. She promises that she will do all she can to save him… assuming he doesn’t freeze, run out of oxygen, get smashed to bits by debris or bleed to death. Like I said, a bad day on the job.
The story is a familiar one, most directly drawing comparisons to late 90s feature Lifepod, another entertaining low budget direct-to-video effort. The story of one man against the odds has been told many many times now, only the setting changes. From Castaway, All Hope is Lost and Adrift, to classics such as Robinson Crusoe; it’s a well loved and oft-repeated tale and it’s executed well here. You feel Holloway’s loneliness and desperation as he struggles to make it from one minute to the next.
The set design is solid, with the little two-man craft a believable lifeboat. In keeping with the modest budget some of the external VFX shots are a little more TV quality than movie, but there’s genuinely not a lot to complain about in terms of presentation. One minor niggle is the sound mix, which is annoyingly muddled and muffled in places, although it is possible this is by design (a la Interstellar‘s infamously muddy mix), to leave the audience in the same position as Holloway, trying to decipher what Roberts is trying to tell him.
Praise must also be given to the soundtrack from composer David Stone Hamilton (Gremlin, Dateline NBC, Fatal Attraction) who has mostly worked in television until this point, but has delivered a solid score. It is something of a shame that the soundtrack is unlikely to get a standalone release as it does deserve it, working seamlessly with the on-screen action in all but one scene where the music is suddenly a little too loud and jarring, taking you out of the moment. [UPDATE: Carl Strathie later confirmed that the soundtrack will be available to buy soon.]
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Hats off to Steven Ogg, who carries the movie almost entirely single-handedly. He comes across as initially somewhat abrasive, but as the film goes on and exhaustion and desperation set in, his demeanor changes to one of sullen resignation to his lot. Contrast to this is supplied by the far-too-obsessed-with-details Commander Roberts. From the outset it becomes obvious that Roberts is not all she claims to be and that there is a lot she is keeping from both the audience and Holloway. Respect is due to Alice Lowe (Hot Fuzz, Prevenge) for making Roberts – who we never see – as much an integral part of the story as Holloway using only her voice.
One thing that may leave audiences unsatisfied is the ending. The build towards the climax rapidly picks up pace and then suddenly fades away. Up until that point, the story seemed to be building to a definitive climax and at the last second swerves off into ambiguity. But that is really the only complaint.
Despite not treading any particularly new ground, the story is well told and well executed and does not outstay its brisk 92 minute runtime. While perhaps not worth rushing out to purchase, should it show up on your VOD service of choice then any sci-fi fan is likely to find something to enjoy here.
Solis is available on digital download from The Movie Partnership from today, 10 December.