Sunshine (2007)
Sunshine (2007)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: July 27th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Danny Boyle Actors: Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis, Mark Strong, Troy Garity, Benedict Wong, Hiroyuki Sanada, Paloma Baeza

 


 

“S

unshine,” Danny Boyle’s latest foray into full-blown science-fiction, seems to linger instead in the realm of horror at the most inappropriate times, while also stifling the sense of adventure at equally inopportune moments. Undoubtedly suspenseful, but with frenetic editing that regularly replaces important scenes – which shouldn’t be presented so abstractly – “Sunshine” may find itself fading all too quickly amongst the dregs of the genre. Amazing special effects and stunning visuals propel it to the top of the list of potential blockbusters, but mainstream audiences will be discouraged by the confused blend of themes and the uncertain motives behind storyline decisions (the film is written by Alex Garland, the author of “The Beach” and the screenwriter of “28 Days Later”).

In the future, the earth has been thrown into a nuclear winter from the sun’s rapidly dying state. A group of scientists and astronauts aboard the Icarus Two are on a last-ditch attempt to re-ignite the sun with a massive bomb – an expedition that was failed by the previous team some seven years earlier. When a distress signal from the Icarus One is picked up and the decision is made to intercept and investigate, tensions rise from critical calculation errors and dissension amidst the ranks. After a mysterious accident hinders the mission’s progress and forces the crew to reevaluate their situation, things take a turn for the worse, as it appears someone – or something – doesn’t want the operation to succeed.

The beginning of “Sunshine” introduces an interesting assortment of characters with immediate development and details, ensuring that they will not be the same, static and forgettable lot from Michael Bay’s “Armageddon” – which features a similarly unlikely plot and stereotypical heroes. In this distant future, the crew of the Icarus is faced with the bleakness and discomfort of unforgiving solitude from mankind. A few early shots, which weave through shadowy corridors and dance about dimly lit Giger-esque passageways, swiftly foreshadow ominous events. But the alarming intensity Boyle borrows from Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is soon abandoned, as an overwhelming motif of self-sacrifice permeates the ill-fated vessel. It keeps up quite adequately, initially, with the unit continually facing predicaments that call for the weighing of detrimental options. It is here that the character development and acting really grip the audience, with individuals greedily valuing their own lives above the betterment of all, or boldly volunteering for horribly suicidal schemes.

Chris Evans’ Mace is perhaps the most remarkable of the group, due to his unflinching dedication to the mission, which routinely leads to the realization that they are the very last resort for saving Earth. Cassie (Rose Byrne) displays the most relatable human qualities, refusing to give in to the idea that any one soul is less important than the entirety of humanity. And Cillian Murphy’s Capa is clearly the main player, but despite his acceptable performance, his role oftentimes steps aside for the supporting actors to achieve greater significance (and better scenes).

Midway through the film, Boyle peaks with white-knuckle suspense and tear-jerker moments as his hapless company is bombarded with issues of rapidly depleting oxygen, destruction to necessary ship components, and prioritizing the crew in the event that only a “lucky” few may see the assignment through to its completion (concepts all comparably witnessed in James Cameron’s “The Abyss”). When the decision is made to board Icarus One, the eerie horror factors begin to take shape. Not a primitive form of scare tactics, but an inventive splicing of subliminal images, the editing warns of lingering atrocities that may still lurk in the lightless regions of the desolate craft. The creepiness is constant, but it remains sadly underdeveloped, giving way to more obvious horror techniques that are far less effective than simple atmosphere and mood. The forfeitures of the team and the fear of death or nonaccomplishment all take a back seat to an outlandish nemesis that washes away the initial impressiveness of the already farfetched premise.

As unbelievable as the plot appears, the characters, their emotions, and their harrowing situations manage to draw viewers in. But like many of the quickly forgotten stabs at the vast science-fiction genre, “Sunshine” all but ruins the experience with its commonplace shock gimmicks, its frequent toying with the suspension of disbelief, and a conclusion that, though possibly adding to the homage to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (with abstract images, hallucinatory editing, and a computer that controls the wellbeing of the ship), is too bizarre and unclear to be satisfying. It may be serious and mature sci-fi, but Boyle’s latest picture never really knows what else it wants to be.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10