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Put George Clooney in a space-suit and you expect Star Wars heroics, aliens, massive FX. Get over it. And don’t assume jumbo epic because Titanic‘s James Cameron produced it. Solaris is a hypnotic blend of psychological thriller and love story that is only incidentally set in space. It’s the landscape of the mind that interests writer-director Steven Soderbergh. Clooney stars as Kris Kelvin, a psychologist sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris to find out why certain crew members are missing and others — Snow (Jeremy Davies) and Helen (Viola Davis) — are hiding in their cabins in fear.

Kris’ biggest surprise is running into his wife, Khari (Natascha McElhone), mostly because she had killed herself back on Earth after Kris threatened to leave her. Now she’s naked and in his bed.

Based on a Stanislaw Lem novel filmed in 1972 by Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris teems with ideas (perhaps too many) about illusion and reality that Soderbergh handles with spare, unhurried grace.

Clooney brings raw intensity to his role; his scenes with McElhone are rooted in a fierce romantic yearning. Solaris is a mind-bender in the best sense of the word: The spell it casts follows you all the way home.

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