FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES (2007)

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Strong

It’s 2057, the sun is dying and the Earth is freezing.

Sunshine – a movie about reigniting the dying sun. It should be a spectacular, pulsating, emotion filled rollercoaster surely? Sadly not. The movie, I have discovered, is scientifically accurate to its maximum realism levels (Professor Brian Cox was on hand throughout to lend accreditation to the material) and for the first half of the movie we are given very scientific explanations for what is going on – whilst not a bad thing overall, the interactions aren’t part of the movie’s strong points, and though they are scientists and engineers, there is no charisma that grabs you.

Cillian Murphy is great in the role as Capa, the man with the sole responsibility of keeping the payload operational and for firing it into the sun – the big responsibilities. He plays the conflicted role well, and as the film rode along never fell into the action movie trope of similar past movies. To be really honest, there are no real bad performances in the movie – the core cast all work well, are genuine and feel like a team. Mark Strong as Pinbacker however doesn’t work for me, his fundamentalist gone mental act really detracted from the movie for me – too OTT and bought me out of the movie.

The slow pacing of the movie meant that it took 70 minutes to really get into the movie – the only exception was the spacewalk scene to repair the panels (however, the urgency and emotion of the situation wasn’t at the forefront at all) and the cannon shot from ship to ship (this ranked as one of the better scenes for me, as the emotion boiled over) The final third of Sunshine is mad, and not in a good way as for me it took any realism out of the story – one of the key things going for the movie. What should have been a grandiose ending to the movie was interwoven with Freddy Krueger’s madcap cousin hollering, chasing and ambling through the scenes.

As the movie is called Sunshine, and it is about the sun, the movie makes sure you know that as well as being Earth’s saviour, it is at the same time the deadliest of enemies – and it captures the fascination it has on certain members of the crew. On the subject of the sun being at the front and centre of the movie, I found it slightly unconvincing that the expert who carefully calculates every detail of the mechanism for changing the course forgets to take into consideration the effect of the deadly Sun, something that is more critical and fundamental to their survival than water and food.

As another niggle, even though Capa is the only crewmember capable of operating the vital payload, Mace volunteers him (and throws him under the bus) for a highly dangerous mission to repair the panels outside of the ship, before later calling him indispensable – consistency issues.

The final scene with Murphy I believe was executed beautifully (just ignore the charred loony stalking him) and paid heed to the discussions previously in the movie. Also, as Capa is discussing the Icarus II’s oxygen supply with the mainframe, hearing the CPU-voice inform us that there is an extra, unknown passenger on board was a great moment in the movie. As a side note, I did find it odd that the power of the sun from 5 meters is combatable with sunglasses.

The visuals of the sun looked brilliant and the visual FX were good throughout. The Icarus II helped create the feeling of isolation due to its set up – long, narrow corridors, crossing walkways, the enclosed glass spaces – the design really looked good.

Sunshine, for me, promised a lot but delivered little. The movie plodded along at a pedestrian pace – and I am aware we are dealing with scientists throughout, and not an Aliens style romp – but I wasn’t gripped by the time the movie attempted to burst into life. Visually great, story-wise not so great – visuals can’t make up for a lacking story. Unfortunately, Sunshine’s payload didn’t hit the target.

October 1st 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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