"Sunshine, sunshine, a happy day. Off to the cricket match I'm away. Somebody else can work for me. I'm the happy absentee." -- The Spinners

Film With narrative and characterisation as unpredictable as an episode of Torchwood, Danny Boyle's film Sunshine drops the kind of crew that might populate an Alien film into a Solaris-style planetary mystery and develops an intelligent version of The Core. None of which is a bad thing. It's been while since we've been able to enjoy giant ships flying through deep space on the big screen without a Jedi or Vulcan piloting them and whilst it sometimes potentially threatens to nosedive into a vat of pulp, excellent performances, direction, editing and music mean that the film engrosses throughout.

The set up couldn't be simpler and is described by Cillian Murphy in the opening moments. The sun, our sun, is dying and a mission has been sent to re-ignite it - eight astronauts in a space ship, the Icarus II, strapped to the back of a bomb which will be dropped in. The name of the ship of course suggests a secondary mission - what happened to the first Icarus and why couldn't it complete the same mission? Along the way, the crew experience the same problems that usually occupy the time of characters in these things with machine failures and argumentative computers and - well that would be telling. Suffice to say that this is the kind of film that tries to throw as much excitement in as possible.

It's spectacle cinema at its best. Fans of the shots of Solaris in the Steven Soderbergh remake will be well served here as the camera digitally explores Sol, convincingly suggesting how its fiery eddies and solar flares might look should a future Nasa mission decide to have a look. Some of the best scenes in the film are of the astronauts in the ship's observation deck awestruck by the sight, some pushing the boundaries of a necessary light shield so that they can get a closer, cleaner look, bathing themselves in its light. Boyle's very conscious that he needs to show their amazement so that we as an audience can buy into what is after all an artificial construct.

I don't think there's a weak link in the cast and its to their credit that this group of scientists and engineers are so three dimensional given that scriptwriter Alex Garland has seemingly deliberately divested them of any back story. Although everyone's been talking about Murphy, megastar in waiting, Chris Evans shows a depth he's until now been unable to show and its wonderful that the underrated Michelle Yeoh gets another chance to demonstrate that she's much more than a martial arts expert - there's a wonderful scene in which her character Corazon is able to see that all is not lost and life will out.


Lara said...

Hey Stu

Might go see this today, but I remain unconvinced by your review. Is it worth seeing? Did you like it?


Stuart Ian Burns said...

Gosh yes, it's really entertaining. I think I was doing what I always do with reviews which is try and avoid hyperbole to such and extent that it's not entirely clear whether I really liked the thing or not!