Danny Boyle's ambitious homage to 2001 and Alien burns bright amid summer of sequels


on July 20, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
In the near future, 50 years from now, the sun has dimmed, and the earth has cooled. Humankind responds by building an explosive the size of Manhattan and sending it toward the center of the solar system, hoping to reignite the star. And the eight astronauts onboard the fatefully named Icarus II, hurtling through space strapped to the back of a bomb, must complete the mission at all costs.
The how or the why of the sun's imminent death are underexplained. In fact, our understanding of the sun's mechanics predicts that the star will grow bigger and hotter over time into a red giant—heating Earth, not cooling it. For this script, however, the filmmakers suppose that a lump of dark matter dubbed a “cue ball” has collided with the sun, accelerating its decline, but this plot point is glossed over in the narrative.

None of this really matters, though, as Sunshine isn't so much action-driven, a la Armageddon , as by psychology both among the crew in the close confines of the ship— Das Boot was another influence—and in individuals coming face-to-face with the vastness of space and God. It's not the dark and cold of infinity that's the metaphor here but light and heat—a force of nature as alluring as it is destructive.

Continuing their eclectic collaborations, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland ( 28 Days Later , The Beach ) achieve this potency of insight by deepening familiar archetypes—the introverted physicist (Cillian Murphy), extroverted engineer (Chris Evans), soft-hearted pilot (Rose Byrne), Zen biologist (Michelle Yeoh), samurai-like captain (Hiroyuki Sanada) and deeply curious psychiatrist (Cliff Curtis). Expertly drawn tension is intensified by flash frames, distorted imagery and frozen motion that suggest cinematically not only the characters' psychological breaks but the warping of space and time. From detailed production design by Mark Tildesley to state-of-the-art special effects, Sunshine achieves a level of credibility that, while still taking some poetic license, allows the viewer to appreciate not only the filmmakers' craft but their ideas.
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Cast: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong and Michelle Yeoh
Director: Danny Boyle
Screenwriter: Alex Garland
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: R for violent content and language
Running time: 107 min.
Release date: July 20, 2007 ltd, July 27 exp
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