A lone astronaut aboard the International Space Station suddenly loses communication with Earth and begins to experience a series of strange events that put him and the entire station at risk in Jonathan Brooks’ Solus.
Since its creation in 1958, NASA has become the world’s most famous name when it comes to Space science and technology. From its very beginnings, NASA has been taking pictures of the Earth, the Moon, the planets, and other astronomical objects inside and outside our Solar System. With NASA being a federal agency, this means that all of their footage, photographs, videos, and information cannot be copyrighted and therefore are all legally available to use by anyone free of charge in the public domain.
Director and writer Jonathan Brooks has used this opportunity to create an original narrative around footage obtained from NASA’s very own public archives and he manages to produce a fascinating film experiment that uses some quite magnificent imagery, the likes of which we have very rarely seen.
According to Brooks, Solus had many technical challenges to overcome, and he and his crew spent weeks searching for the relevant NASA footage from their enormous 60-year library. The challenge was finding videos that, not only worked within the story but would look visually outstanding on the big and small screen. Altogether, it took them 3 months of searching through countless clips to find the right pieces to structure the story. Essentially, they all worked backward by editing the film first and then writing the story from that.
Unfortunately, it’s the story that, while good, is also the weakest part of the film but only because, as a plot, it is one we have seen numerous times when it comes to films set in this type of environment. The Martian and Gravity are both recent films that have dealt with a lone astronaut losing communication with colleagues and being stranded in space, but over the decades, this same theme has been examined very frequently in film and on TV including in things like Star Trek, Dr. Who, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone.
Brooks uses voiceover in the form of video and audio diaries of the stranded astronaut to keep us informed on what is going on, with the voice provided by a very intense Henry Douthwaite. Although the story is nothing particularly new, the dialogue Brooks has written remains extremely authentic during the 12 minutes run time. Again, Brooks has worked overtime on the research making sure the terminology, pronunciation, and words are factually correct. What is lacking in Solus is a sense of jeopardy and urgency, the audience does realise the stakes are high but that doesn’t come across in the footage. Despite this being a life or death situation the images and our astronaut remains pretty happy, calm, and collected throughout the film.
But the footage is absolutely stunning, any weaknesses in the narrative shouldn’t obscure the brilliance of the pictures we are looking at, they are exceptional. Solus is a completely unique film that manages to educate while attempting to entertain, and in doing so should be celebrated for its vividness. Brooks has certainly created a film the majority of us have never seen before.