Director – Afonzo Poyart, Screenplay – Sean Bailey & Ted Griffin, Producers – Thomas Augsberger, Claudia Bluemhuber, Matthias Emcke, Beau Flynn & Tripp Vinson, Photography – Brendan Galvin, Music – BT, Visual Effects – Black Maria Sao Paulo & Hydraulx (Supervisor – Erik Liles), Special Effects Supervisor – David Fletcher, Makeup Effects Design – Nikoletta Skarlatos, Production Design – Brad Ricker. Production Company – FPC/Eden Rock Media
Anthony Hopkins (John Clancy), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Agent Joe Merriwether), Abbie Cornish (Agent Katherine Cowles), Colin Farrell (Charles Ambrose), Matt Gerald (Agent Sloman), Kenny Johnson (David Raymond), Xander Berkeley (Mr Ellis), Josh Close (Linus Harp), Sharon Lawrence (Mrs Ellis), Marley Shelton (Laura Merriwether), Luisa Moraes (Victoria Raymond), Janine Turner (Elizabeth Clancy), Autumn Dial (Emma Clancy)
The FBI conclude that a serial killer has been active, cleanly killing victims with a puncture wound to the back of the neck and leaving no evidence. Baffled, investigating agent Joe Merriwether decides to call upon John Clancy, a retired doctor who has clairvoyant abilities and has been invaluable to them before. Clancy has dropped out of involvement in FBI work following the death of his daughter Emma and is reluctantly persuaded to return. As Clancy soon unearths, the killer is targeting people who have medical problems, in some cases undiagnosed ones that even they didn’t know about. As Clancy becomes more deeply wound into the case, he realises that he is tracking a killer who has the same abilities he does and is performing mercy killings to spare those he can see will develop painful illnesses. However, as Clancy engages in a game of wits, he realises that the killer has foreseen every move that he will make.
The fascinating fact about Solace is that it was going to be a sequel to Se7en (1995) tentatively referred to as Ei8ht. Or at least the original script was bought up in 2002 and rewritten to be a Se7en sequel. You can see how it would have worked with Morgan Freeman’s character playing the one that Anthony Hopkins takes up here, albeit it also having required Freeman to suddenly develop psychic powers, something he gave no evidence of in that film. Thankfully, the idea was killed off by David Fincher. Nevertheless, the script stayed around and was eventually made into an original standalone film as had originally been intended.
I took me a time to make the effort to get around to watching Solace. The simple reason for this being that I had seen far too many clairvoyant murder mystery films. This is a genre that has a long history on film and little of it interesting. See the likes of Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Double Exposure (1981), Cassandra (1987), Fear (1990), Murderous Vision (1991), Dead On Sight (1994), Sensation (1994), Hideaway (1995), A Deadly Vision (1997), After Alice (1999), In Dreams (1999), The Gift (2000), Murder Scene (2000), Troubled Waters (2006), Empathy (2007), The Cell 2 (2009), Let Me Die Quietly (2009) and In/Sight (2011) as well as tv movies like The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Visions (1972) and Baffled! (1973). Most of the films are no more than detective stories where someone with the ability to foresee simply replaces a standard Sherlock Holmes-type character making ingenious deductions. The powers and the effect they might have on the user are explored no further than that.
Even as it sets in, Solace suggests it is going to be no more than a serial killer thriller variant on the clairvoyance film. Certainly, you are impressed by the star power the film has managed to bring together – it is a surprise that such a film did not end up getting a major theatrical release. On the other hand, this type of thriller has vanished from screens in recent years and as the overly familiar serial killer thriller plot kicks in, you wonder what new things Solace could possibly rack up on the genre.
However, the difference soon becomes apparent. Solace places the emphasis on well-written dialogue and solid performances. Under Brazilian director Afonso Poyart, the dramatics are understated and perfectly modest in allowing the story and actors to carry the show. Anthony Hopkins, who is also the film’s executive producer, gives an exceptional performance. The scenes where he persuades a Christian Science family to allow their son’s body to be exhumed by telling them about the death of his own daughter; or where he tears Abbie Cornish apart by telling her details that he has picked up about her life are utterly riveting – occasions where all the drama in the scene is delivered by Hopkins’ performance alone.
However, it is not until the surprise entrance of Colin Farrell about halfway through that Solace is suddenly propelled into something extraordinary. Farrell has an amazing scene sitting down in a cafe booth opposite Anthony Hopkins, making a persuasive case for him being a sympathetic killer who prevents suffering and then outlining the possible outcomes of every action that each of them could take from that instant. It is this that suddenly propels Solace from being yet another clairvoyant thriller into the realm of the decidedly watchable. The idea of two clairvoyants on either side of the law outmanoeuvring one another was previously done in Fear but this does extraordinary things with it. Thereafter the film plays on another whole level about Hopkins pursuing the clues leading to Farrell and Farrell having the ability to foresee every course of action in advance, leading to a gripping ending. The ending the film arrives at and its moral quandary is a place not dissimilar to the ending of Se7en.
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Actress (Abbie Cornish) at this site’s Best of 2015 Awards).