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Review: Solitary (2020)

Back in the day, the British sent their criminals to what became the USA, and then to Australia. In 2044, they send them into space. That’s the idea behind VFX man turned director Luke Armstrong’s film Solitary. Based on a short of the same name, it was shot in 14 days and finished remotely due to COVID-19.

In the opening scenes, Issac (Johnny Sachon, Bonded by Blood 2) is chased by police. Some things never change, apparently, as they manage to shoot and kill a black passerby in the process. The next thing he knows, he’s waking up in a space pod with only Alana (Lottie Tolhurst) and the ship’s computer for company.

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He’s been sentenced to life on Earth’s first colony in space, even though he can’t remember his trial or sentencing. As if that’s not bad enough, the mothership that’s supposed to transport them there explodes, leaving them stranded in space. With time and oxygen running out, they have to find a way back to Earth.

Armstrong’s effects credits include Guardians of the Galaxy, Annihilation and The Witcher, and it shows. Solitary opens with some excellent shots of a futuristic London. Unfortunately, none of those stunning buildings or flying cars are visible during the scenes with Issac. Whether that was because of the budget or the COVID interrupted post-production, I’m not sure. But it’s the film’s only real misstep when it comes to the effects.

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I wish I could say the same for the rest of the film. Solitary is mostly a two-person, one setting film. Thanks to the radio, other people are heard but rarely seen. Unfortunately, most of what we hear is bland to the point of being annoying. When a news crew interview them, it’s so vapid it makes most morning shows sound like intellectual discussions.

As it turns out, Issac ended up in prison because of his girlfriend (Connie Jenkins-Greig, The Kid Who Would Be King) and her gambling problem. So of course she’s betting on whether or not he makes it back. That’s the level of characterization we get. It’s also the kind of thing the script focuses on.

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When Solitary does take on bigger issues, like the state of prisons and the ethics of sending prisoners into space, it’s trite and superficial. The script also mentions climate change and overpopulation, but does nothing with them. It’s obvious the film wants to make a statement. It just doesn’t seem to know how to get it across. Talky and dull, Solitary is one of those ideas that makes for a good short. It just doesn’t expand to feature-length very well.

Solitary will be released across multiple platforms and in UK retailers on August 31st. You can check out the film’s website for more information.

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