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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Robert Downey Jr.
Catherine Keener
Jamie Foxx
Stephen Root.
Directors
Joe Wright.
Screenwriters
Running Time
117 minutes

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The Soloist
Joe Wright’s Oscar-neglected LA Story finally turns up


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Plot
LA journalist Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) is in search of a story. And, thanks to a cycling accident, he finds one in colourful tramp Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), who has a secret history as a musical prodigy. Over time, though, Lopez becomes more than a story; he becomes a mission.


Review
The Soloist
Joe Wright’s The Soloist arrives belated and laden with baggage. Originally slated to hit last Oscar season, Wright’s follow-up to his glorious Atonement fell afoul of studio politics and was shunted into an April US release slot, where it fared poorly. But anyone thinking this indicates the turkey-whiff of a stinker will be proven pleasantly wrong.

Having excelled in the Britflick comfort zone of period drama, Wright decamps to modern Los Angeles. Not that that means this is also an attempt to go commercial. In fact, it’s the opposite — a clue to its status as a studio-political victim. It’s a film about vagrancy, mental illness, music, journalism, friendship and LA itself. Admirably, but to its own detriment, The Soloist asks intelligent questions, but is honest enough to admit that there are no answers. Like its protagonist, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), it finds a great story: that of Nathaniel (Jamie Foxx), the Juilliard drop-out cello prodigy who is now a psychedelically attired, trolley-trundling vagrant, scratching at violins in the acoustic sanctuary of a busy Angelino underpass. It has a story, but it can’t find a solution.

It’s not really giving anything away to say you shouldn’t expect a punch-the-air ending; neither should you hope for a welter of cathartic sobs. Furthermore, the two leads have taken standard showy roles — dogged-but-flawed journalist and schizophrenic hobo/musical prodigy respectively — and underpinned both with weight and warmth.

Wright himself further develops as a visualist. A few scenes might smack of obvious symbolism, but in his hands they somehow (forgive the pun) hit the right notes: one, for example, represents Nathaniel’s blissful perception of Beethoven by splashing colourful lights over a black screen. Elsewhere, Wright manages to lift even the most mundane moments. One great sequence involves nothing more than the arrival of a gift at Steve’s desk. Here we take the gift’s-eye-view as it whirls and weaves through the office, punchlining with a great reaction shot from Downey Jr.. This recalls virtuoso tweaks from the likes of Fincher, Zemeckis and Spielberg.

Still, as much as he should be praised for mastering such smart but non-crowdpleasing material, surely it’s now time for a cast-iron blockbuster?


Verdict
Intelligent and uncompromising, with knock-out performances from Downey Jr. and Foxx .


Reviewed by Dan Jolin


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Average user rating for The Soloist
Empire Star Rating

The Soloist Review

Though the lack of narrative focus does slightly prevent The Soloist from hitting it's mark the two outstanding performances from both Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx make it a highley watchable film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 23:23, 04 March 2012 | Report This Post


Fair. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 10:33, 14 December 2010 | Report This Post


''This recalls virtuoso tweaks from the likes of Fincher'' maybe that is because the scene is a total rip off of the letter coming to the newsroom scene at the start of ZODIAC it is hard to believe empire gave this 4 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bill the butcher at 12:11, 11 September 2010 | Report This Post


Soloist

Well acted and well written. Nice solid film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:57, 29 March 2010 | Report This Post


Powerful Pefomances But Not Brilliant.

I wanted to see this so I rented it out and watched it last night. It has some powerful pefomances from Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx but that's it really. It seemed long, very grim and depressing to see on a Saturday night. Don't hope for a happy, feel good ending because it ain't here. So it's not brilliant but worth it to see the pefomances only. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:07, 07 February 2010 | Report This Post


i think its beautiful ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vivlitherland at 13:56, 01 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not so much

L: hcfd Despite great perfomances by the leads, it fell flat. Fails to say anything about mental illness or print journalism, save a few shoehorned references to "staff going". Was crying out for some dark humour in parts - surely Nelsan Ellis could have been better used - which made it slightly sterile. Probably not a good sign that in a key scene I found myself thinking "wasn't Tom Hardy great in Stuart: A Life Backwards?" sp; Yes a muddled film but with a few lines and images that h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Taizy at 22:28, 18 December 2009 | Report This Post


I maybe solo on this but ...

...I loved this film. Yes the film had a slow pace with the weight sentiment throughout the film but with the excellent performances from always superb Downey and Foxx you forget it. Wright has shown the other side of LA, with a hard and brutal hand at times but it has opened my eyes. Not to everybody’s taste but overall a good film, but all I want to know is when oh when will Downey get his overdue Oscar! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by katelm76 at 11:38, 13 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Soloist

Who was it that said something like, 'if you want to win an oscar, play a div or do a holocaust film'? Seems apt here. ... More

Posted by spamandham at 17:32, 05 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Soloist

I agree moviemaniac, Robert Downey Jr. gives another amazing performance, I felt that Fox's was a bit detached I couldn't really feel for his character either. Downey, well he has that magical charisma and presence that most actors just don't have. I thought it was cool that they actually used some of the people who live on Skid Row to get a feel for some real characters. I expected the movie to be more moving than it was. ... More

Posted by JoeyPottr at 04:04, 05 October 2009 | Report This Post


Soloist

Having sat on the shelf for a few months , The Soloist comes with sufficiently lowered expectations after initially being an awards contender. The Soloist is, a beautiful film. It's wonderfully shot, and it has proven actors who soon found their way as bankable movie stars in the lead roles. It just doesn't work as well as it should have. Director Wright can't seem to make up his mind with how to deal with Ayers illness, so we're given flashbacks that don't really serve a purpose. It feels ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 19:55, 30 September 2009 | Report This Post


Soloist

Having sat on the shelf for a few months , The Soloist comes with sufficiently lowered expectations after initially being an awards contender. The Soloist is, a beautiful film. It's wonderfully shot, and it has proven actors who soon found their way as bankable movie stars in the lead roles. It just doesn't work as well as it should have. Director Wright can't seem to make up his mind with how to deal with Ayers illness, so we're given flashbacks that don't really serve a purpose. It feels ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 19:53, 30 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: The Soloist

Two fantastic actors that I think were underused in this one really. It didn't go into enough about Fox's character's schizophrenia. There's an interesting article how RDJR saw some people he met in the LA County Jail on Skid Row. It does kind of fall flat though, too bad too. Still like others have mentioned it is definitely Oscar bait. 2 1/2 out of 5. ... More

Posted by JoeyPottr at 05:51, 30 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: The Soloist

I think meandering is the word I'd use to describe The Soloist. I'm a patient man and this sort of fare is usually right up my street, but this film's first hour almost pushed me out the door. I can deal with slow as long as it's moving somewhere but for 60-70 minutes this progressed /i] nowhere, instead opting to bombard the audience with yet another musical interlude set against lingering shots of the cityscape and CGI wildlife. I think symbolism with all the subetly of a sledgehammer to the ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 12:32, 29 September 2009 | Report This Post


Just going through the motions

This movie doesn't have any soul. Rob DJ just goes through the motions, nothing special from him and I never really felt anything from his character. It's difficult to really engage with any of the characters and so ultimately I just wanted it to end as quickly as possible. Didn't do anything for me and was quite frustrating at times...sorry. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The kUrGaN at 18:55, 27 September 2009 | Report This Post


So so

Just to echo the sentiments of people here I guess... I thought this movie was OKish, but kinda boring. The performances of Downey and Foxx were undoubtley impressive, but the whole thing left me feeling a bit distracted to the point I was reaching for my laptop in parts to play the "Where Do I know them from" game on IMDB. Overall it wasnt bad, but it wasnt great either. It certainley didn't deserve the accompanyment of an amazing uplifting Elbow track on the TV ad which would lea... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by IrishC at 13:32, 25 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: First, Away We Go - Now...

L: BertyBasset Movies are supposed to entertain first and foremost surely ? They should have an engaging story & if the acting is great then all the better. think entertain is the wrong word - it's not like er's Listertaining is it, despite being a great film. I think engaging is probably a better word; if a film fails to engage on some level then I think it fails, regardless of how good individual elements might be. I haven't seen this yet, by the way, though may do this weeke... More

Posted by Davechoc at 22:38, 21 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: First, Away We Go - Now...

Won't go into plot details, I'd just like to say this : This film seems to be the perfect example of "Oscar Bait" It's got 2 great actors (Downey & Fox - both excellent here) & a serious subject matter (mental illness). Like several "Oscar Bait" movies though, it's BORING AS F*CK ! Movies are supposed to entertain first and foremost surely ? They should have an engaging story & if the acting is great then all the better. This film nearly sent me to sleep though.... ... More

Posted by BertyBasset at 21:28, 21 September 2009 | Report This Post


First, Away We Go - Now...

Brit directors of very mediocre American films are getting a real four-star pass this month. I think it's what we in the States call Home Field Advantage. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by benskelly at 01:46, 21 September 2009 | Report This Post


Not so much

Despite great perfomances by the leads, it fell flat. Fails to say anything about mental illness or print journalism, save a few shoehorned references to "staff going". Was crying out for some dark humour in parts - surely Nelsan Ellis could have been better used - which made it slightly sterile. Probably not a good sign that in a key scene I found myself thinking "wasn't Tom Hardy great in Stuart: A Life Backwards?" ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hcfd at 00:12, 21 September 2009 | Report This Post


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