Directed by Danny Boyle.
Starring Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Benedict Wong, Rose Byrne. 107mins.
I have to admit a bias here. I love a good spaceship movie. Hell, I like some really quite dreadful spaceship movies. And Sunshine is a pretty good spaceship movie. Not quite a great one but we’ll come to that later. It strives for a middle ground between Event Horizon and Solaris (either version.) It’s intelligent but not so much that it won’t muck in with the standards of the genre. British Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) makes sure it has all the things a fan would require of such a movie – airlocks, flashing lights, space walks, a central computer with a female voice and lots of things constantly rotating. He even squeezes in the botanical gardens from Silent Running.
Some time in the future the Earth has been thrown into a new ice age as the Sun starts to die. The Icarus II is sent off to the sun with the aim of firing a nuclear device into the sun in order to reignite it. Inevitably things don’t go smoothly, the problems starting when they pick up a distress signal from Icarus I which disappeared seven years earlier attempting the same mission.
In space people rarely get to see you act but the script by The Beach author Alex Garland has created characters just tinted enough for a talented cast to make an impression between all the special effects. There is though a definite problem with the narrative. The film shows signs of being cut quite extensively to get it down to a sub two hour running time. It's going great guns for the first two thirds but then it collapses into a noisy, frantic climax during which I doubt anyone in the audience really had anything beyond a general gist of what was happening. A certain amount of ambiguity was probably intentional and Boyle is not a director who’s going to spell out everything for the viewer but throughout the film certain key plot developments aren’t explained as clearly as they should be.
Boyle had previously been invited to direct one of the Alien sequels but he’s held out to make a spaceship movie on his own terms and he’s come up with some striking and innovative visuals. Ultimately he isn’t quite the kind of visionary film maker who can make Sunshine the stunning epic it could’ve been but this is still an exciting, smart compelling piece of serious minded science fiction.