|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
Fifty years from now, the sun is dying, and mankind is dying with it. Our last hope: a spaceship and a crew of eight men and women. They carry a device which will breathe new life into the star. But deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission is starting to unravel. There is an accident, a fatal mistake, and a distress beacon from a spaceship that disappeared seven years earlier. Soon the crew is fighting not only for their lives, but their sanity.
A novel blend of doomsday thriller and meditative science fiction, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine imagines a disturbing future in which mankind must re-ignite the sun or face total extinction. A team of scientists and crew members (played by an eclectic cast that includes Cillian Murphy from Boyle’s 28 Days Later, The Fantastic Four‘s Chris Evans, Rose Byrne of TV’s Damages, and martial-arts legend Michelle Yeoh) is dispatched to the dying star, but disaster strikes from almost every conceivable angle; as the crew is whittled down by accidents and psychological breaks, the survivors must discover a way to carry out the mission or seal the fate of the world’s population. Alternately exciting and pensive, Sunshine’s dichotomous tone may throw viewers expecting a special-effects bonanza (though the film’s visuals are frequently stunning), but for those who recall such cerebral ’70s efforts as Silent Running and Phase IV, Boyle’s unusual take will be refreshing and even fascinating. The DVD includes commentaries by Boyle and Dr. Brian Cox, who served as the film’s science advisor; Boyle also lends his voice to a brace of deleted scenes, including an alternate ending (which doesn’t improve on the one used in the film). Thorough production diaries cover every aspect of the film’s execution, from casting to special effects design, while a pair of unrelated short films by Chris Shepherd and Dan Arnold seems to be included only as a gesture of Boyle’s appreciation for these directors. —Paul Gaita
You can never accuse director Danny Boyle of lacking ambition. Sunshine sees one of Britain’s most successful directors switching genre once more, as he tackles this gripping science fiction flick about a quest to re-ignite the dying sun. And he nails it, too, adding another plus to a CV that’s already covered a kids’ film (Millions), a big Hollywood blockbuster (The Beach), horror (28 Days Later), and a pair of British classics (Trainspotting and Shallow Grave).
Bursting out of the gate at a terrific pace, Sunshine then doesn’t take its foot off the accelerator for much of its near-two hour running time. Set around the crew of the Icarus II who find themselves on a life-saving mission, things soon start going awry, and while you’ll find no plot spoilers here, Boyle proves a dab hand at ratcheting up tension on the way to the big finale.
If anything, it’s the finale to Sunshine that does let the side down, not quite living up to the standard of what preceded it. But such is the strength of the ride to that point that it’s hard to complain. Especially when the cast, led by the always-magnetic Cillian Murphy, put in believable performances and get heavily into the spirit of the film.
Topped off with cracking effects that belie its modest budget, Sunshine is a real treat, not just for sci-fi fans, but for anyone who likes a strong, tense, thrilling night in front of a movie.—Jon Foster