Historically, the British deported their convicts to what became the United States and subsequently to Australia. They are sent into space in 2044. That is the concept behind Luke Armstrong’s film Solitary and a VFX worker-turned-director. The same-named short film was shot in 14 days and completed thanks to COVID-19 remotely.
In the first scene, Issac (Johnny Sachon, Bonded by Blood 2) is pursued by the police. Some things, it appears, never change, as they manage to shoot and murder a black bystander in the process. The next thing he knows, he’s awake in a space pod with just Alana (Lottie Tolhurst) and the ship’s computer to keep him company.
He’s been sentenced to life in space on Earth’s first colony, even though he has no recollection of his trial or sentencing. To make matters worse, the mothership that was meant to carry them there explodes, leaving them stranded in space. With time and oxygen running out, they must find a means to return to Earth.
Armstrong has worked on films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Annihilation, and The Witcher, and it shows. Solitary begins with some stunning images of a future London. Unfortunately, none of the breathtaking structures or flying automobiles are visible during the scenes with Isaac. I’m not sure if this was due to a lack of funds or because COVID halted post-production. However, it is the film’s sole significant flaw in terms of special effects.
I wish I could say the same thing about the remainder of the movie. Solitary is mostly a two-person, one-location film. Other individuals can be heard but rarely seen, thanks to the radio. Unfortunately, most of what we hear is monotonous to the point of annoyance. When a news team interviews them, they are so dull that most morning shows sound like intellectual debates.
As it turns out, Issac was incarcerated due to his girlfriend’s (Connie Jenkins-Greig, The Kid Who Would Be King) gambling addiction. So, of course, she’s wagering on whether or not he returns. That is the degree of characterization that we receive. It’s also the type of thing that the script highlights.
Solitary’s treatment of more prominent themes, such as the condition of prisons and the ethics of sending inmates into space, is bland and shallow. Climate change and overpopulation are also mentioned in the screenplay but are not addressed. The picture intends to make a point. It just doesn’t seem to know how to say it. Solitary is one of those concepts that might make an excellent short film. It’s talky and uninteresting. It just does not scale well to feature-length.