In space, no one can hear you call for help. An accident on an asteroid, an explosion, a single survivor, Engineering Technician Troy Holloway of the Orbis Mining Corporation, strapped into his seat next to a dead man in the escape capsule Khepera 2, a bubble of hope dropped through the black immensity.
The warming radiance of the Sun overwhelms all but offers no comfort; with no control, limited power, diagnostics down and oxygen running low, the capsule is falling towards the Sun and while the rescue ship Hathor 18 is following as swiftly as she can the odds of survival are marginal at best.
Despite the determination of Commander Roberts, Holloway knows that is insufficient to balance the numbers in his favour, but beneath her resolve Holloway gleans from her reticence to discuss certain points of the operation that there is more going on than he has been made aware of, that his team were not the only ones impacted by the solar flare which triggered the disaster.
With its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival attended by writer/director Carl Strathie, producer Charlette Kilby and composer David Stone Hamilton and many others from the crew, the sold-out audience was astonished when Kilby stated after the screening that the entire production budget for Solis had been “less than a million.”
A sum which would fund less than ten minutes of Game of Thrones and about thirty seconds of Infinity War, the flight deck of the Khepera 2 is suitably spartan and run down, emphasising that the mining operation as much as the production is undertaken on a frayed shoestring though it is to be hoped Strathie did not cut so many corners on safety precautions.
Regardless, Solis looks astonishing, Artem SFX conveying the fragility and isolation of the capsule and the overwhelming and mesmerising power of the Sun and a host of other impending crises on a fraction of the budget of the similarly starstruck Sunshine with which there are inevitably parallels, and even in the escalating danger there is a wonder emphasised by Hamilton’s soundtrack which echoes 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar.
A single location film always difficult proposition, unlike Buried or Brake while the Khepera 2 is small there is more to it than just the flight deck, the claustrophobic conduits recalling the haunted innards of the Event Horizon, and throughout Solis is dramatically lit and shot, keeping the narrative vital and flowing, and the result is superior to the two recent films it most closely resembles, Capsule and Approaching the Unknown.
Helpless in an increasingly hostile environment, Steven Ogg of The Walking Dead and Westworld is Holloway while Alice Lowe of The Ghoul and Prevenge is the insistent voice of his disembodied pursuer, and while the limitations of the production demand an open-ended rather than a satisfyingly epic conclusion, Solis is a proud follower in the line of hard British science fiction which crafted Quatermass, Moonbase 3 and Star Cops.