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Wednesday August 1, 2007 6:48 pm

Review: Sunshine

Sunshine the movie

The Alex Garland/Danny Boyle team is back with another harrowing look at humanity, it’s need for hope and willingness to sacrifice, both on a grand scale and within each of us.

The year is 2057.  The sun, the source of all life on Earth, is dying.  A spaceship called Icarus II is 60 million miles from the world, en route with a crew of eight scientists, physicists, and astronauts to set off a type of nuclear bomb in hopes of reigniting the dwindling star.  This group of experts represent the last hope for Earth and all of mankind, and their mission, like that of the first Icarus journey, is based on theoretical science in the face of unknown conditions — mere miles from the surface of the sun.

Visually stunning and intense beyond imagination, Sunshine  reminds everyone of the insignificance humanity represents on a grand scale, while simultaneously inspiring us to fight for it.

Danny Boyle is an amazing director — not only does he have a distinct visual style, but he uses film to turn a critical eye on life, humanity, and reality without becoming preachy.  28 Days Later and The Beach are among these achievements, and Sunshine represents the perfection of his craft.  Along with Alex Garland, Boyle consistently takes unprecedented steps in a medium too often catered to the indifferent, and with this film, using the present-day climate crisis as a vehicle, he does just that.

To be fair, movies about space or the fate of humanity aren’t new.  In fact, it seems impossible to make any new statements about a future in space that’s based on current science — it’s probably going to be a crew on a mission for the good of mankind.  And while Boyle and Garland both admit to borrowing heavily from other famous space-themed endeavors, Sunshine somehow feels familiar and unique at the same time: familiar because it retains elements of past movies — in some cases improving upon them — and unique because of the breath-taking imagery, the great performances, and the sheer hopelessness of the mission.

In so many ways, Sunshine brought to mind the first film I saw that really made me consider how tiny and insignificant I was (2001: A Space Odyssey), and yet I left with faith in the human race and its future.  The sacrifice made by the members of the crew, each having to sometimes weigh the importance of one life against the entire population, gave me chills.  And sadly, the beautiful sympathy of humanity, that struggle between rationalizing the death of a close friend against that of millions of strangers, will likely be our downfall.  These types of problems and the irrational arguments presented gave the story much more life.

Performances are all perfect, most notably those of Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans who begin quietly, then slowly become the main focus of the mission.  Boyle wanted each actor to approach their roles methodically, insisting they live together during filming, spend time flying a flight simulator, experience weightlessness on an acrobatic plane, and visit a nuclear submarine to get a sense of confined quarters.  Indeed, each one conveys perfect intensity and authenticity in the film.

Some will challenge the ending, citing a far-fetched obstacle in a scientifically sound mission.  Without giving anything away, I can only say that this is classic Boyle — guiding you one way, then throwing you off with some unlikely, near-implausible problem that, after careful consideration, makes sense even if not presented logically.

Sunshine is an experience unlike any you’re likely to have in the theater this year — don’t miss this beautiful film.

Official Site

Director: Danny Boyle

Screenplay: Alex Garland

Cast:

  • Cillian Murphy
  • Rose Byrne
  • Chris Evans
  • Cliff Curtis
  • Michelle Yeoh
  • Hiroyuki Sanada
  • Benedict Wong
  • Troy Garity
  • Mark Strong

Rated R

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Comments:

Yeah, people seem to be hung up on the film’s plausibility.  This is how I see (rationalize?) the story.<ul><li>Alright, the Earth has another four billion years before kicking the bucket, and the idea that it would happen only fifty years from now is pretty far fetched.  But science isn’t perfect.  It’s based on tested hypotheses—what else could we rely on when the thing’s 90 million miles away?  Isn’t it possible that something unforeseen could have an affect on the sun’s vitality?</li><li>Okay, true—the technology now seems centuries away from any that could send humans to the sun.  But necessity is the mother of invention.  If the sun started dying tomorrow, wouldn’t humanity use every possible resource to save itself?  And the ship, its “payload,” and the possibility of survival are blatantly stated to be theoretical in the film.</li><p>For me, the future is pretty wide open to speculation, and humanity’s reaction in the film, to endure in the face of annihilation, is spot on.</p>

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