Film review

Satellite Of Love

DIRECTED BY Steven Soderbergh

STARRING George Clooney, Natasha McElhone, Jeremy Davies

Opens February 28, Cert 15tbc, 97 mins

Soderbergh's barely believable eclecticism continues with a radical remake of Tarkovsky's 1972 sci-fi enigma. It has nothing in common with Ocean's Eleven apart from a love of style, and is as still and quiet as his last film, Full Frontal (panned in the States, and struggling, despite an all-star cast, to land a release here), was fast and frenetic. It's broody, beautiful, and may bore philistines, but if you're caught in its mesmeric magic you'll think it's his best film yet. And by admitting emotion (think about it: when did he do that before?) it proves his limitless ability to surprise. Solaris boldly goes where not even Soderbergh has gone before, and asks Clooney to work with more than charm, which he does, charmingly.

In an unspecified near-future, psychologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) is dispatched to the space station Prometheus, where paranoia and suicides have depleted the crew as they orbit the planet Solaris. On arrival, Kelvin talks to survivors Snow (Davies) and Gordon (Viola Davis), learning that Solaris is an overpowering state of mind, to which he too is about to succumb. He's visited by his dead wife Rheya (McElhone, shot with the levels of awe Godard once used on Anna Karina), but is she a hallucination? A ghost? Should he rescue her, seizing the chance to repair the way their marriage ended? Or remain objective and dispassionate?

As we're granted flashbacks to the couple's happier days, Soderbergh extends the tropes from the Clooney-Lopez affair in Out Of Sight, revealing a touching romanticism. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on Prometheus (with Cliff Martinez's score crucial) is all shadows and half-light. Soderbergh rejects any sci-fi clichés to conjure up the eerie chill of outer space, the dislocated thrill of a nebulous future, the human heartache that can't be deleted.

A small-scale 2001, also owing much to Pierrot Le Fou, this haunting depth-charge rewards repeated viewings. Or as Davies' twitchy, spooked face stammers, "I could tell you what's happening, but that won't tell you what's happening." Transcendental.

Rating: 4 / 10


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