In 2057 the sun is dying, no longer providing the energy and light man needs to survive on Earth. The spaceship Icarus II and its crew of eight men and women, including engineer Mace (Chris Evans), biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne) and Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), have to deliver a nuclear device designed to reignite the sun. But once out of radio contact with Earth, a distress beacon is received from their sister spaceship Icarus I, which disappeared on a similar mission seven years earlier. It is up to physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy) to deduce whether or not to change their route and how this will impact on the success of their mission.
Review by Louise Keller:
Taking a premise based on scientific fact, filmmaker Danny Boyle has created a wonderfully visual sci-fi thriller, taut with tension and spectacular special effects. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out that things are likely to go wrong, putting the whole mission into jeopardy, and risking the lives of the crew. It's a fair bet also, not all the crew will make it - especially when there are miscalculations, guilt, blame and sabotage. My only reservation lies in the twist that reveals itself about 40 minutes before the end, which takes it into precariously ho-hum territory. But the cast, headed by the charismatic Cillian Murphy, is solid, as is the stunning production design, enigmatic soundtrack and Boyle's moody direction.
Greek mythology reminds us that Icarus and his artificial wings met his demise being careless and flying too close to the sun, so the filmmakers must have been tempting fate to so name not one, but two spaceships. With a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan attached to its centre, Icarus II is an impressive-looking, sophisticated ship with extensive submarine-like corridors and a massive oxygen garden catering for the primary source of oxygen and fresh food. The intensity of the situation and relationships is magnified by imposingly tight close ups and cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler's dazzling use of light is a constant throughout. Rose Byrne is the yin to Cillian Murphy's yang: her Cassie shows her emotions, while Murphy's Capa is guided by his rules of deduction. To Chris Evan's Mace, everything is black or white, and there's a sense of claustrophobia in the confined spaces, which contrasts the sense of spirituality and starry eternity outside.
I got a little lost towards the end, when cameras zoom in all directions and we become immersed in light, darkness, brash sound effects and magnified close-ups. This is a result of scriptwriter Alex Garland's final endeavour, which somewhat (unsuccessfully) changes the pure nature of the genre. But Sunshine is a far better film than its storyline may suggest. Its strength lies in its never-abating tension and how the crew deliberates on its plight and options.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Positioned by a hyped up marketing campaign as part spiritual, part sci-fi arthouse mix, Danny Boyle's latest film blocks out whatever sunshine there was in the derivative screenplay. There is little that is credible in the film, except the special effects, although even these are usually shot so obtusely as to be mere novelty, a dance macabre to accompany the story. The filmmakers claim the film is based on scientific fact, presumably referring to the sun's potential to shut down and a nuclear device being able to wake it up. But it wouldn't matter if this were a fiction, for all the relevance it has to our engagement with the film.
For a start, the crew members are not credible either as scientists or as astronauts; mostly too young to be physicists (Cillian Murphy) or pilots of immense spacecraft (Rose Byrne), they also behave as though they were the rejects in the space program. Or else their evaluation process is abysmal; they behave (and look) like 20 somethings caught up in a weekend adventure that's gone badly wrong. Dialogue isn't crash hot, either: eg, Byrne gets the clichéd climactic line, "Finish it," which she delivers in an earnest whisper.
More of a cliché is the computer voice of Icarus II, an irritating female version of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also has selective omnipotence: it knows everything and responds like a human, but can't prevent catastrophes that dog the mission in increasingly silly scenarios.
For much of the film we don't know what we're looking at and can't see much of anything, with cinematographer and Boyle opting for the crazed camera look: lots of motion, lots of ECUs (extreme close ups) so nothing is clear. This is a mistaken approach if it's trying to equate visual blur with ambiguity and/or action.
The film ends up a shambles of images and sound signifying nothing. I hate to call Danny Boyle pretentious; let's just say this film is a solar system sized error of judgement.
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SUNSHINE (2007) (M)
CAST: Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong
PRODUCER: Andrew Macdonald
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
SCRIPT: Alex Garland
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alwin H. Kuchler
EDITOR: Chris Gill
MUSIC: Karl Hyde, John Murphy, Rick Smith
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Tildesley
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 12, 2007