New British sci-fi thriller ‘Solitary’ reviewed

❉ A sharp, scarily prescient commentary on global relations, writes Eoghan Lyng.

Any new sci fi feature is an event, no matter how small the budget. Like this latest project from writer/director Luke Armstrong, a project that’s every bit as dazzling in its economy as it is in design. Ripples of Hampton Fancher epics Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 seep into the film, but the film doesn’t suffer from the comparison to the cosmic dramas steered by messrs Scott and Villenueve. And behind these startling silhouettes comes a very strong script that essays a sharp, scarily prescient commentary on global relations.

More than that, the script-focused as it is on the incarceration of a reluctant prisoner-has an added meaning, given how feverishly audience members took to watching films from the safeties of their sofas. The importance of the sci fi flick, so rich in mythology, to British morale is key to understanding the film’s appeal. Nineteen Eighty Four was a hoot, capturing the artifice that had haunted eighties by mirroring the audience’s materialistic values; while the Blade Runner films followed the sagas of a robot querying the humanity that a person takes for granted in their daily lives. And now, there’s Solitary, Armstrong’s dissertation on the human condition, which signals a world we may well inhabit in 2044.

Prisoners Isaac Havelock (Johnny Sachon) and Alana Skill (Lottie Tolhurst) journey with viewers on a space pod after being condemned to Earth’s first colony. Focusing on the claustrophobia, the story unravels with the characters in question. The script even spells it out. Havelock, barely escaping the clutches of a junkyard beating, wakes up on the shuttle with scarcely a memory to his name. Filmed in an impressive two weeks, the feature began as an exercise for the director to steer a narrative using nothing more than his green screen and a living room. (Armstrong’s pedigree is nearly as unbelievable as the plot he directs: Marvel, the 007 franchise, and the Oscar-winning Jungle Book are just some of the films he’s worked on.)

It may be set thirty twenty years in the future, but the muddied world that has swamped the world’s workers in a furloughed, feverish continuum is beamed indelibly onto the futuristic panels. Synth-soundscape crafter Vince Cox creates a musical world every bit as textured as the motion that wades across the silver screen. The music, thunderous and echoey in equal measure, creates a loneliness that’s more vast – and certainly more ponderous – than the voyage through the night’s neon skies.

Yes, the film works in a self-referential direction, bringing with it a story that might not come across as entirely original to those well versed in the lexicon of science fantasy. It recognises the genre, responds to it, and even reveres it. The vast spaceships surround our eyes with an impassioned array of colours, each shade glowing with every frame it floats in. In all of its capacities, this beautiful film demonstrates the capacities that can come from a night’s hard labour, painting a world that’s almost as beautiful as any Ridley Scott would build (much cheaper too!) But bold as ever, the film takes time to build the two leads, conjuring an evocative impasto even more mechanical than the rhythms that brings them to their unlikely destination


❉ ‘SOLITARY’ will be releasing across multi-platforms and in all major retailers on Monday 31 August 2020. Social: @solitarymovie | @inspired_picts | @highfliersfilms #solitarymovie

❉ Eoghan Lyng is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His writing has also appeared in Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on TwitterVisit his homepage.

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