Posts Tagged ‘Alex Garland’

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SUNSHINE (2007)

November 11, 2007

Sunshine review
Sunshine

Matt: Four and a half
Tracy: Four Stars

Length: 108min

Taglines:

If the sun dies, so do we.
Dark days are coming.

Review by Matt:

Forget about global warming. In Sunshine’s cold future our beautiful sun has fizzled out. It’s global cooling we have to worry about now. Polluting like crazy hasn’t helped to warm things up (bummer – that would have been such a handy solution). So humanity has resorted to sending an elite team of seven astronauts on a mission to ‘jump-start’ our star by smacking it with a massive bomb – kind of like a stellar defibrillator. Earth has tried this mission once before and failed. Seven years ago a crew of seven astronauts navigated the inauspiciously-named Icarus to the Sun before suddenly vanishing before the mission was completed. An uncomfortable prelude for the new batch of astronauts. Sunshine begins as the tenaciously‑named Icarus II enters the same communication ‘dead-zone’ where the first Icarus disappeared, and is preparing to deliver its crucial payload to save humanity.

Unsurprisingly, the plan does not unfold smoothly. The crew faces a major dilemma when it suddenly detects a distress signal from the drifting Icarus I. What is it doing there? What could possibly have happened to it? The ship’s physicist, Capa (Cillian Murphy), is asked to decide whether the team should deviate to dock with the ship and harvest its unused bomb. Two payloads would mean the team has two chances to jump-start the Sun and save the world and, as Capa puts it, ‘two last hopes are better than one.’ The decision is made and, needless to say, things get complicated. The poor viewer is sucked into a vortex of solar terror.

Sunshine provides some of the best and most tense humans-in-peril viewing around. Director Danny Boyle (best known for Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) is adept at constructing a menacing atmosphere and expertly employs some of the tried and true sci‑fi/mystery/horror filming techniques to achieve it. Consequently it feels occasionally feel like you’re walking through familiar sci-fi territory. At different times during Sunshine I distinctly felt the ghosts of Armageddon, Alien, Event Horizon, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I also sensed a ripple of modern Doctor Who; not only in Sunshine’s plot and mise-en-scene, but in its strong themes of human frailty and noble self sacrifice (the David Tennant incarnation of the Doctor has been particularly big on selflessly offering his own life to save humanity).

Despite the sense of sci-fi familiarity, Sunshine still treads its own path through the genre and it generates an electric (or solar?) experience for its viewers. And anyway, it’s probably near impossible to make a quality space film these days without having some residue of the work that came before. For me the Sunshine experience was also enhanced by the eerie and poetic undertone that Boyle infused into the film. It’s primarily felt through the portrayal of the Sun as a kind of god-like force. It seems appropriate that the representatives of humankind act out our strengths and frailties under this divine solar gaze.

Although Sunshine tells a fairly straightforward story, there’s actually a considerable profundity in the situations that arise and in the characters’ reactions. I found the script (written by Alex Garland, who also wrote The Beach and 28 Days) satisfying in the way it pressures the assortment of characters into making inescapable difficult and moral choices. It devotes time and attention to developing the scenario and the characters, which means the film has a slowish build-up – but this is necessary and it’s worth it. Sunshine’s cast is familiar, but not too well known (Rose Byrne, Chris Evans and Michelle Yeoh would be the most well-known). The actors’ performances are earnest and effective and they solidify the depth of these ‘characters in calamity’.

Many viewers and reviewers were unimpressed with this film. But not me. Sunshine is an unexpected sci-fi gem that tells a great story from start to finish.

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