Another body has been found murdered and FBI Agents Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Cowles (Abbie Cornish) are on the case, but this apparent serial killer is proving a tough nut to crack with no clues left behind and not much connecting his selection of victims. However, Merriwether has a colleague who used to be a valuable member of his investigating team, a psychic named John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins), though he has become a recluse since his daughter died of cancer. Can he be coaxed back to work? That's what the agents hope, so drive out to Clancy's house in the country to speak to him face to face, for if anyone can find out the identity of the murderer, it is him...
It's often a bad sign when a film is moved to explain its title with a short paragraph at the beginning, not so bad if that title is something obscure, but the word solace was not exactly ancient Aramaic. But here we were, asked to believe that one of Wales' greatest actors was an FBI psychic, a position that doesn’t exist because, well, because no case has ever been solved with the help of a clairvoyant and any supposed evidence to the contrary would be laughed out of court. We were also asked to believe Hopkins thought that hairdo was a good idea, which put his abilities into question, not that this stopped director Afonso Poyart presenting his visions as if Clancy had a channel playing nineties goth rock videos through his mind.
But you can tell these images were the real deal, because they included one of the great signifiers of ESP, which was a glimpse of a coffee mug falling to the floor and breaking in slow motion, a trope that has been used in, ooh, every psychic thriller and many non-psychic thrillers for what seems like ever since the eighties (call it The Omen effect, though that was a goldfish bowl). With its horror inflections, Solace was closer to something like The Cell, though not as ornate, and Hopkins barely altered his expression throughout the whole performance, perhaps to indicate the loneliness of the long distance mind reader, or perhaps because he was getting confused about what he was meant to be doing.
He certainly looked glaikit for a man with an incredible power, or maybe veh veh tired, but in spite of appearances and his general "let's get on with it so I can get paid" demeanour we were asked to find Hopkins' character sympathetic as our focus of attention. Labouring under some truly atrocious dialogue coupled with flat characterisation, the cast struggled to bring the yarn to life, though given the whole affair was obsessed with the pros and cons of euthanasia that could have been entirely appropriate. That said, it was difficult to argue that executing the terminally ill in elaborate murder schemes was the correct way to go about ending their misery even if you were on the pro side of the debate, so the suspicion this was overfond of straw man arguments and less fond of actual facts was strong.
So convinced was Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin's script on the imminent circumstances of each of us facing up to the death of either ourselves or a loved one that it seemed as though every person here was about to expire or knew someone who was, often to the distraction of what we were supposed to be here for, a serial killer suspense effort. With the bulk of the action taken up increasingly with Clancy's visions and portents, every one shot with the utmost pretentiousness in a style that was looking very past it by now, the patience was truly tested, particularly when the twists they conjured up were perfunctory and still in the thrall of saying something meaningful about terminating life when it was nothing of the sort. They even threw in a car chase halfway through (this was originally posited as a sequel to Se7en until its director David Fincher objected) to come across as the semblance of a thriller was at least being attempted, which only made you thankful they hadn't made it the issue drama it was straining to be, and with a celebrity as the reveal of the murderer plus a big cheat for one of the predictions, Solace was only good for a few laughs. Music by BT.