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United Kingdom 2007
Directed by
Danny Boyle
107 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
4 stars


Synopsis: Fifty years from now, our sun is dying. The crew of the Icarus 2 have been sent, carrying a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan, to re-ignite the sun. But then they hear a distress beacon from the first Icarus, thought to be lost, and they change course to investigate…

This is a bloody great year for science fiction. It’s seen us given two of the finest entries to the genre. First there was The Fountain, a meditation on death and renewal through the prism of past, present and future. Now there’s Sunshine, which tackles much the same ideas but in a totally different manner. Closer to science than fiction, but like all great works of the genre,  not obsessed over the details. Sunshine sits in a direct line with 2001 (1968) and Solaris as a serious but entertaining exploration of humanity coming face to face with the infinite.

The film bathes in mysticism while hewing closely to the reality of the protagonists’ situation. Namely, that they’re flying a big bomb straight at the sun and if they don’t deliver it, the world will end. The ship’s psychologist, Searle (Cliff Curtis), sits in the observation deck opening the sun shield and letting the light of the sun envelop him. He views it as the opposite of a sensory deprivation tank: Instead of nothingness, he is surrounded by everything. It’s a celebration of life. But others go mad, at least one of them believes he is in the presence of God and must be annihilated by his divine will. The picture of humans pushed to breaking point as they face disasters and make life-or-death decisions is compelling. Because the issues at stake are so critical -  oxygen supplies, food supplies and whether they can survive long enough to reach their destination, the drama doesn’t seem overwrought. It’s a balancing act that never overdoes it one way or the other. And as people crack or rise to the challenge, the tension ratchets up

The performances are all good, with Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans and Rose Byrne in particular drawing you in. But everyone has their moment, their chance to stand as an individual character instead of part of the furniture. For a film that’s densely packed with action set-pieces, it’s no mean feat to let everyone have their moment in the sun, so to speak. The visuals are breathtaking, and it’s easy to feel the sense of awe that inspires the crew. And when everything goes wrong, the camerawork and sound design punch the tension up and up and up. There’s no dead spots, it just holds you and keeps on moving to its destination.

Smart and entertaining, but filled with wonder and nobility, Sunshine is a truly beautiful film.




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