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Solos – A Fun Science Fiction Experience That’s Worth a Watch

May 21, 2021

Quick thoughtsSolos is a fun experiment that allows Anthony Mackie, Constance Wu, Helen Mirren and others to flex their acting chops in unique science fiction environments.

This is a non-spoiler review, I knew nothing about the show when I watched it, and I think that adds to the experience.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, creator David Weil, said “a lot of the inspiration for [it] came from things I’m not allowed to do as a writer, in film and television, you’re really not allowed to have a 30-minute monologue, though I would love to in every episode of something I write.” Luckily for Weil, who also created Hunters for Amazon Prime, Solos was his opportunity to tell seven solo stories that revolve around a form of grounded science fiction. In the seven episodes, actors Anne Hathaway, Nicole Beharie, Helen Mirren, Uzo Aduba, Anthony Mackie, Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, and Morgan Freeman all do excellent work and they command the screen alone, or together (Stevens and Freeman are a double act in their episode).

The highlights of the seven episodes are the Anthony Mackie (Tom) and Constance Wu (Jenny) episodes that focus on revolutionary technology and a long wait in a waiting room. Both actors are superb, as they deliver 10-30 minute monologues that showcase their ability to balance anger, humor, sadness and hope within one well-written monologue. It’s nice seeing Mackie away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it makes me want to see him in more non-superhero movie cinema (watch Synchronic now!). Also, the episodes reminded me again how excellent Constance Wu is. Her performance in “Jenny” is a highlight of the show, and she’s asked to do a lot inside throughout the course of her episode. She handles humor with heartbreak expertly, and I’d love to see her get some award recognition for her performance.

The seven different stories all feature inspired production design by Ruth Ammon (The Alienist, Jack Ryan) and fun direction from David Weil, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Tiffany Johnson and Zach Braff. Telling visually interesting stories with just one actor, in one location is not an easy task, yet each episode is visually distinct, and the sets all cater perfectly to each story. Some of the actors are allowed more free range in their episodes as they have an office, basement lab, or simulation to move around in. Others, such as Helen Mirren, spends her episode strapped into a chair while traveling in to space. Cinematographer William Rexer (Hunters, Sneaky Pete, The Tick) had his work cut out for him, and he managed to find dozens (if not more) of angles and shots to keep each episode looking fresh and thrilling. It would’ve been neat to be a fly-on-the-wall for these shoots, because they must’ve been intimate and kind of thrilling.

Final thoughts – Watching Solos was a lot of fun, and you can tell the actors loved the experience of carrying their episodes. I’d love to see more.

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