Crystal-gazing and murder most foul

BAD and good across a table: Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell) finally meets John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins). Photograph courtesy

THE SKILL OF representing inner dialogue and spooky intuitions on film is a complex, almost philosophical, one. How do you, without labouring the idea, tell your viewer what you need them to understand by what you are showing them? Melding past, present and future, with future imperfect and future averted is part of the toolkit of the 2015 film Solace, featuring Anthony Hopkins, that is newly available on Showmax.

It’s a series of premises which are as much about a good old skiet-en-donder thriller, as it is about making sense of immense grief and the damage that a painful protracted death leaves on the bereaved. And it is here that we meet Dr John Clancy (Hopkins). He’s a retired medical doctor, an old friend of the FBI, and one endowed with an immense gift of paranormal intuition. He’s also a hermit, nursing the bloody wounds of great loss.

Much of this film, while slick and quick, is moulded on the detective genre. There is what seems to be a serial killer on the loose. The crimes are impeccably performed. Not a clue in sight. The ordinary police are stumped. They have to bring in an extraordinary fellow who is beyond the pale of police protocol to help them. And he’s controversial. You know the drill. It is formulaic even in its reflection on red herrings.

The added dimension of loss and mourning, however, is the one that uplifts this film from a highly watchable action-packed murder story to something more. It presents chilling twists and things that will make you sit up and think. There is a moment in the church when the Clancy character reveals his heart. There are hairpin bends which make you think of your own loves and losses and decisions taken but not acted on. And there is a reflection on the issue of mercy killing and the indignity of terminal illness which sits firmly at the nub of the piece, and will haunt you.

But there is also a preponderance of flash backs and flash forwards, which sometimes causes the nexus of the story to skitter on its own technological cleverness. And while in some respects this is a plus, making you double think what you have just seen or understood as fact, in others, it turns messy.

Unequivocally, the presence of Hopkins in this work, with his wisdom and beauty, his intensity and gravitas, is the magic ingredient that holds the whole work together. Abbie Cornish is Katherine Cowles, the police partner of Joe Merriweather (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who is the friend of Clancy. While Cornish resembles the character portraying Clancy’s lost daughter Emma (Autumn Dial), she is meant to be a woman with almost a doctorate in psychoanalysis. She comes across as too young and snippy to hold that position with any credibility. And as the work unfolds, you do not get any closer to her, or gain any insights as to why she has the goods to be a profiler in this league.

Also, Colin Farrell as the antagonist, Charles Ambrose, is not consistently credible as a fellow psychic with the same level of paranormal potency as ‘our’ guy, Clancy. He seems too glossy and forceful. If you think of the manner in which Stephen King – and Stanley Kubrick – presented the bond of psychic connection between a small boy and an elderly chef (Scatman Crothers), in the 1980 film The Shining, you will remember the careful sense of energy reflected that offers a chord of the sacred in the eye of mutually respected talent. Indeed, Clancy and the Farrell character represent good vs evil, but Farrell doesn’t hold the sense of otherworldliness convincingly. He’s more like a crook than an evil monster hiding beneath a mundane facade with good intent that is morally askew. He feels tacked on, rather than revelatory in an almighty, terrifying way.

Having said that, Solace is an interesting, evolved piece of filmmaking which stands well in Hopkins’s repertoire. It keeps you tight to its twists and turns, corpses and revelations and leaves you with a little something to hold onto.

  • Solace is directed by Afonso Povart and features a cast headed by Tara Arroyave, Christopher Beanland, Xander Berkeley, Adam Boyer, Frank Brennan, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Joshua Close, Russell Durham Comegys, Abbie Cornish, Autumn Dial, Adam Drescher, Keith Ewell, Colin Farrell, Matt Gerald, Carter Godwin, Rey Hernandez, Anthony Hopkins, Kenny Johnson, Charles Lawlor, Sharon Lawrence, Jake Lawson, Luisa Moraes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kresh Novakovic, Niyi Oni, Marley Shelton, Bruce Taylor, Michele Torres, Janine Turner, David Weiss and Jordan Woods-Robinson. Written by Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin, it is produced by Thomas Augsberger, Claudia Bluemhuber, Matthias Emcke, Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson, and features creative input by Brian Wayne Transeau (aka BT) (music), Brendan Galvin (cinematography), Lucas Gonzaga (editing), Deborah Aquila and Tricia Wood (casting), Luana Pinhanez and Brad Ricker (production design) and Denis Wingate (costumes). It was first released in 2015, and is a new release currently available on ShowMax.  

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