Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Release Date: July 20, 2007
Running time: 108 min
MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Fox Searchlight Pictures
“Only dream I ever have... is the surface of the sun... everytime I shut my eyes... it's always the same.”
50 years into the future, the Sun is burning out, causing the Earth to enter an ice age. The crew of the spacecraft, Icarus II, is sent to basically re-ignite the Sun.
That Danny Boyle can sure make a mean movie. Not only can he make a great movie, but he doesn’t stick with one type of movie. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but to cover so many different genres like he has in such a short amount of time (just over a decade) and have them all be as relevant as they are, that is just plain impressive. Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Millions; even if you sprinkle a few bombs in there, these five movies alone make for one hell of a resume. Well you can add this one to that list.
Sunshine takes place 50 years into the future. The year is 2057 and the Sun is burning out, causing the Earth to enter an ice age. As Earth’s last ditch effort, the Icarus II and its crew of eight are dispatched to plant a bomb that will basically re-ignite the sun, thus saving humankind. The films explanation of this is far more technically superior than I have just done, but that is the basic idea. While passing the planet Mercury, the crew discovers the distress beacon of Icarus I (the first attempt at such a mission). Since all of Earth’s nuclear materials have been mined for the two Icarus ships, this is the last shot. It has been seven years since contact with Icarus I was lost. The crews physicist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) is burdened with the decision to either continue on course to complete their mission, or attempt to find and meet up with Icarus I to acquire another potential payload, essentially giving them two possible chances. Calculating their theoretical success, he decides the best course of action is to attempt a rendezvous with the Icarus I. The crew is split on this decision and the tension builds from here. There are a lot of other things that happen during the mission, and I don’t want to give anything away, but there are deaths and the film gets increasingly ominous as it progresses and there is a curveball in the last 30 minutes that will come out of nowhere and without warning. It worked - for me at least.
According to IMDb.com, there are only 9 people credited as starring in the movie (with the exception of the three people in the last shot), and there was barely any marketing for the movie, so all of the money in the budget must’ve went to the effects. And it shows. This is a beautifully shot film. The scenes outside the Icarus were so expansive; it gave you a real feeling of contrast by illustrating the sheer scope of the project. Good science fiction movies like this one will make you think. It is science fiction, so there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief when watching, but it has to be remotely believable. After seeing this movie, I had a discussion about the movie with the friend who saw it with me. He brought up a good point. A lot of thought went into writing the movie to make the science behind it sound real and technical without trying to make the audience feel stupid for not being able to keep up.
And how about that writing? This is a movie set in space with a lot of tension and weird shit that happens along the way, so obvious comparisons will be (and have been) drawn to Alien and Event Horizon and 2001; all very, very good films that any movie would love to be compared to. What works most for me is that there isn’t a lot of wasted time in the movie. The setup took a bit to get going, but once it did, they really were quite efficient at telling the story and pacing it in such a way that there isn’t a lot of down time. As far as the ending goes, I have read a lot of complaints about the last 30 minutes of the movie (I wont spoil anything, so keep reading). I agree it comes from out of nowhere and kind of threw me for a loop, but in the end, I think it added to the whole list of things the remaining crew had to worry about - like they really needed any more - and it worked. It almost didn’t, but it worked. That’s what I like most about Boyle’s films; the fact that they are a little off-kilter. He takes ordinary conventions used in movies and kicks them a little off balance to make them his own. Whether it is a tale of heroin addicts, zombies, child’s morality, or scientists trying to save the world, there is a certain familiarity in the themes represented in his work: greed, indulgence, and the human response to overwhelming situations. Sunshine fits the bill on all counts. And I can’t wait to see what he does next.
A very good, almost brilliant movie. The beginning was a bit slow going, and the ending worked - barely - even if it came from left field. A beautifully shot movie that is definitely one to see in the theatre. And there’s the rub.
*** out of ****