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"
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
"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
Watch this space.
View the Sunshine Trailer.
(C)opyright Alex Rieneck, 2007.