Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Alex Garland
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Mark Strong
I can’t remember who it was who described the formula for a thriller, but it goes something like this: A man is on a crashing plane and the controls are damaged; at the last second he finds a parachute and jumps from the plane, only to find the parachute has a hole, and the emergency chute won’t open; at the last second it opens, only to find himself descending into a pool of ravenous crocodiles…and so on. Obviously, a thriller must subscribe to Murphy’s Law: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, always in the worst way possible.”
Sunshine subscribes to Bogg’s law: “Murphy was an optimist.”
In the not too distant future, something has gone wrong with the sun – it’s not tanning quite as well as it used to. Science decides to attempt a big middle finger to the forces of the universe by sending a team into space to lay the smack down on that useless ball of gas with its very own, patented, problem resolving multi-tool: A nuke. Now, before you all start groaning and rolling your eyes as the movie decides to just “Hit it with SCIENCE!”, if the sun was actually going out, would you have a better idea? Didn’t think so.
What separates Sunshine from something like, say, Armageddon or The Core, is the verisimilitude with which director Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and writer Garland (28 Days Later) treat this whole show. Acknowledging that liberties have to be taken in order to actually tell a story, the team went to great pains to keep all the technology and theory as close to real world physics as possible. The absolutely stellar cast (and while Murphy is top billed, and rightly so, I reckon it’s the future Captain America who puts in the top performance) carry the ball with conviction – making you believe that these are a bunch of people who have been stuck together in a tin can for months and months on a last-ditch effort to save humanity.
Oh, so many things to go wrong here.
Fortunately for us, the film itself is not one of them. There is a mid-flick turn into horror-thriller territory which feels a little odd, and stretches credulity more than most else in the show, but I consider this a minor gripe. It looks good; it’s paced well; and Captain America’s in it. I DARE you to bad-mouth this to his face.
How To Enjoy It
Run this in the middle of a haunted-ship movie marathon along with Alien and Event Horizon. Then sleep with the lights on.
Rating – 4 out of 5 (Really Enjoyable)
As it happens, I did bad-mouth it to his face. At the L.A. Film Festival in 2007, I told Chris Evans that his character was the one voice of reason among a crew of immature, bickering idiots.
“Sunshine” is very pretty to look at, and the musical score is beautiful. But Alex Garland couldn’t write a convincing story to save his life. His idea of drama is to have his characters do dumb things (Let’s go off-course! Why should I have someone check the math? Of course, the captain and the mission’s most important member– a civilian, yet– should perform an incredibly risky repair!) until they find themselves in a world of trouble. And, unfortunately, spazz-boy Danny Boyle plays along with him.
Sure, you got snookered by the “pretty.” It’s understandable. But “Sunshine” is, by no stretch of the imagination, an intelligent film.
I don’t think that Zee was claiming that this was a particularly intelligent film, merely that it was enjoyable so I’m not sure exactly how he got ‘snookered by the pretty.’ While I agree that there were some problems with the story, I think you’re exaggerating a bit regarding Alex Garland, it’s easy to make declarations like this after the fact. I would wager that most audience members accepted the explanations provided for the course deviation.
As far as the Captain going outside to make repairs, that’s how space crews work. Nobody is just there giving orders, everybody has a task to do and if the Captain is the repair guy, then he’s the one going outside. As Zee pointed out, the major problems in the story crop up when the movie tries to make the transition into horror, ruining a lot of the nice setup.
While you might have issues with some of his films, calling Danny Boyle a ‘spazz-boy’ is unnecessary. It’s easy to attack someone on the internet, but I would prefer to see a discussion of the film rather than the person.
Well…that gag backfired on me a little.
I actually admire your gumption there, to be totally and ballsly (that a word?) honest in such a setting when I’m sure a lot of people just want to praise everyone and back-slap. It’s good to get dialogue going about films – from those who love a flick and those who don’t. It’s how film quality will improve…at least I hope. That’s the theory.
I hear what you’re saying about what bugged you in the film – but those things didn’t bother me at all. It has been pointed out to me that I have low film standards (probably true), For a sci-fi thriller I found the explainations for the sequence of increasingly worse events to be satisfying – is it Carl Sagan smart? No. But it drew me in and I had a good time watching it.
I can’t comment on any other works by either writer or director, because I haven’t seen anything else they’ve done )not even Slumdog!) – but since they are both industry professionals I have to assume that they are capable of a decent standard of film-making.