[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sunshine - Alex Rieneck - Movie Reviews - Gnomon Publishing
Movie Reviews


Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Alex Garland


Right from the start in this review, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. The first film that I ever saw was Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and ever since then, I have been an exceptionally serious hard science fiction buff. I have read everything by Arthur C. Clarke, pretty much gave up on "science fiction" when it became infected with dwarves and fairies and will (most likely) spend more time thinking about the sets in a future based film than I will thinking about whatever business the actors are trying to put over. I have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey well over 30 times. I still like it. OK. Now that you know that I this very specific eccentricity, read on.

Sometime in the future the spaceship Icarus 2 goes to the Sun in order to drop a nuclear device the size of Manhattan Island into it. The reason for this is simple. The sun is growing progressively weaker and the Earth is consequently getting colder, and dying. It is hoped that the device can restart the sun and bring it back to its normal brightness. There are eight crew on the Icarus and when the film picks up they have been in space for 16 months and are just entering the dead zone near the Sun which takes them out of contact with Earth. They were already stressed, now they are stressed and alone. To make matters worse, they are following the Icarus 1 a ship with an identical mission which vanished 7 years earlier. After entering the communications dead zone the crew pick up the sound of Icarus 1's distress beacon and the mission starts to warp out of shape.

So let me say that I enjoyed "Sunshine" very much indeed and that I enjoyed it for reasons that are very rare. It is first and foremost a spaceship based science fiction film. These are rare beast indeed since they are so expensive to make. Rarer still it is a spaceship based science fiction film that actually attempts to nod in the general direction of science, in "Sunshine" spaceships do not swoop around the screen like fighter planes, shooting green crap at everything in sight. Instead, in the ships are huge, are stately, move realistically and could (theoretically) actually work. Better than that, the actors portraying the crew look like they might actually be capable of doing such a job rather than the usual collection of lifeguards and shoe shop assistants that usually get such parts. I found Hiroyuki Sanada as the Captain and Benedict Wong as the astrogator to be exceptionally well-observed and well delivered performances and the Michelle Yeoh as Corazon the doctor to be nothing short of outstanding. The rest of the cast were far above the standard normal for such films and made the ship and its situation not just believable, but thoroughly convincing, in spite of several large areas of dubious plot content. The acting in "Sunshine" is of a very high standard indeed.

The real stars of the film though are the ship and the environment that the ship is in, and both look magnificent throughout, in long, lovingly held shots. On these technical levels "Sunshine" is a very good film indeed, it is a pleasure to watch, and a very pleasant way to spend two hours. On these fronts I recommend "Sunshine" unreservedly.

As far as the last third of the film goes though, I don't. Somewhere around the middle the film starts to diverge into unexpected territory almost as if it felt that it owed the audience "excitement" and that in the end the only excitement that it could find to deliver was of a rather pedestrian variety. Bluntly, and without spoiling anything up until about 2/3 of the way through "Sunshine" seemed to be primed to be making major statements about the nature of existence about God vs. Atheism instead it delivered a rather garbled and far more human message and in my mind achieved an anti-climax with a great deal of noise. This is in no way to say that "Sunshine" is a bad film... far from it. It is far better than any number of roughly similar films ranging from the execrable "Event Horizon" and "Sphere" and the rather better "Solar Crisis" through to the butchered "Supernova" ... it is just that "Sunshine" seems to promise far, far more than it actually delivers, and this is a great pity since it promises a very great deal. Whether this blame actually belongs at the door of the studio or of the director or the backers it is the scriptwriter who actually has to wear it and this is a pity since the script itself is actually very good indeed. The characters are very believable, the situation fascinating and the delivery very well handled... it is just aspects of the ending which are discordant and unsatisfying.

"Sunshine" is a fascinating film. I am writing this the day after seeing it, and I have every intention of seeing it again, later this week and using the opportunity to really take the film apart at my leisure. It is a long, long time since I have enjoyed a space film so much, and I am looking forward to the experience. In fact, I am just about salivating.

Watch this space.

View the Sunshine Trailer.

(C)opyright Alex Rieneck, 2007.

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