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Solaris (2002, George Clooney, Natascha McElhone)

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Steven Soderbergh’s first foray into the science fiction genre certainly was a bold step: his interpretation of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 classic (itself a riposte to 2001: A Space Odyessy ) was based on Stanislaw Lem’s classic 1961 novel. But thanks to a cast headed by George Clooney, proving he is capable of restraint in front of the camera, and an adherence to the novel rather than the original film, Solaris is a cultured, thoughtful film about regret and desolation that just happens to be set in space.

Clooney plays Chris Kelvin, a psychiatrist still mourning the death of his wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone). Sent to investigate strange goings-on on the space station Prometheus, which is orbiting the planet Solaris, he finds just two crew members still alive. Snow (Jeremy Davies) is a gibbering wreck while Dr Gordon (Viola Davis) has become silent and withdrawn. As Kelvin probes for the truth, they tell him of visions of long-dead friends and family seemingly generated by the sentient Solaris. Sceptical at first, Kelvin is forced to believe them when he awakens next to Rheya and becomes obsessed with her to the point of madness.

production details
USA | 99 minutes | 2002

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Steven Soderbergh, from Stanislaw Lem’s novel

cast
George Clooney as Chris Kelvin
Natascha McElhone as Rheya
Viola Davis as Gordon
Jeremy Davies as Snow
Ulrich Tukur as Gibarian
Michael Ensign as Friend
John Cho as DBA Emissary
Morgan Rusler as DBA Emissary
Shane Skelton as Gibarian’s Son
Donna Kimball as Mrs. Gibarian
Elpidia Carrillo as Friend
Kent Faulcon as Patient
Lauren Cohn as Patient