Known for his excellence and eclecticism in features such as the cult film Trainspotting, the family oriented Millions, and the zombie film 28 Days Later, director Danny Boyle’s latest Sunshine, written by Alex Garland, involves a captivating futuristic space voyage. This feature is set apart from other movies of the genre for combining science, psychology, and spirituality, in a more factual rather than pure science-fiction presentation.
The well-balanced multidimensional theme delivers irresistibly beautiful proximal views of the sun, as well as captures the anxiety, uncertainty, claustrophobia, darkness, and irrationality experienced by the spaceship crew. The feature poses the question of whether it is up to humanity to alter God created nature if that nature approaches a course of its own destruction.
The story takes place in the year 2057, when the Sun begins to die, threatening the extinction of mankind.
As a last resort to save Earth, a crew comprised of eight men and women, scientists and astronauts, board the spaceship, Icarus II, equipped with a nuclear device designed to reignite the Sun.
While in deep space and shortly after losing radio contact with Earth, the team receives a distress signal from Icarus I, a ship that disappeared seven years earlier.
The team is faced with the dilemma of whether to compromise their survivability as well as their mission, in order to divert their ship to Icarus I.
Despite some objections, the authoritarian Captain Kaneda (Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada), decides to approach Icarus I. However, when the Navigation Officer Trey (Benedict Wong) makes a miscalculation, the journey becomes seriously compromised leaving enough oxygen for only four crew members to complete the mission.
The feature is presented through the eyes of the ship’s physicist Capa (the Irish Cillian Murphy). He is the only one who can operate the sophisticated bomb the ship is carrying and is the one always at odds with Mace (American actor Chris Evans), the ship’s engineer.
The crewmembers also include the most emotional crewmember, Pilot Cassie (Australian, Rose Byrne), Communication Officer Harvey (Troy Garity, son of legendary actress Jane Fonda), Medical Officer Searle (New Zealander, Cliff Curtis) and the Biologist Corazon (Asian, Michelle Yeoh) in charge of the ship’s oxygen and fresh food garden.
For this smart high-action thriller, Boyle brought together a diverse cast with actors from the USA, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Britain. The acting is solid throughout. Troy Garity relates “It’s interesting that each character in the film deals with the unlikelihood of their survival in different ways – some more honorable, some more spiritual, and some more accepting.”
This “more NASA than Star Wars” approach leads to a visually realistic cosmic mystery with an edge-of-the-seat visceral suspense. Adding to the drama are images from a camera placed inside the astronaut’s helmet bringing into perspective the physical exertion and stress faced by the crew to save mankind. The great special effects include CGI for the exterior scenes, while the interiors of Icarus II were built on stage.
Cinematography by Alwin H. Kuchler uses oblique angles to render a claustrophobic feeling within the interior of the spacecraft.
Notwithstanding a few bloody scenes and an enigmatic ending, Sunshine is enjoyable and engaging.
Opens July 20, 2007