“Sunshine” is a gorgeous and engrossing hard sci-fi film by Danny Boyle, who proves yet again that he is one of the most diverse directors working in Hollywood. With a well-conceived plot about a team of scientists attempting to essentially jump-start the sun (due to its showing signs of fatigue, which could mean the end of humanity), Boyle pays homage to previous sci-fi masterpieces without feeling as if he is ripping them off or descending into formulaic genre filmmaking. He also does a great job of placing much of the focus on the characters and their relationships (at least initially), crafting a film that is every bit as emotionally captivating as it is visually stunning.
The hypnotic visuals and sharp cinematography work wonders, particularly in the sequences depicting the characters’ quasi-religious obsession with basking in the sight and the heat of the sun at a close distance. There are also some very unique camera techniques used in the final act, translating the feeling of pulsing heat waves into a visual artistic style as a means of obscuring and disorienting the viewer in specific instances. The cast is also quite solid, with Cillian Murphy standing out thanks to a wonderfully vulnerable performance in the lead, and Chris Evans demonstrating some fine acting chops in his secondary role which ends up holding quite a bit of emotional weight by the end. Mark Strong is also very effective in a surprising and unrecognizable role.
The film does have a somewhat flawed final act which takes an unexpected turn in more of a slasher/horror direction – a shift that felt jarring but was not entirely unwelcomed for me, since the film had done such a great job of crafting an ambiguous feeling of dread for the majority of its runtime that I felt it benefited from having an actual villain to deliver the payoff after all the growing suspense. Despite its minor flaws, “Sunshine” is a shining example of the sci-fi genre’s capacity for strong character-driven films as opposed to the empty CGI-drenched garbage that has become more apparent in recent years (see: Battle: Los Angeles, Skyline). The only question that remains after the credits roll: is there anything Danny Boyle can’t do?
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Sunshine (2007, UK, R: 107 mins) Directed by: Danny Boyle. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rose Byrne, Troy Garity, and Mark Strong.