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August 1, 2007

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Movie Review – Sunshine (2007)

by GEOFF GEIB

Ah, the sad state of affairs when a few specially chosen men and women must live together in the far reaches of the solar system on a last-ditch mission to save the earth. Will tension brew? Will humanity’s true nature be uncloaked? Will the filthiest toilet in all of outer space be revealed?

Such is the heart of Danny Boyle’s latest effort Sunshine. The sun is dying, and a group of t-shirt clad men and women are charged with flying into the sun and setting off a giant explosion, or big bang, if you will, in order to give our galactic battery a jump. While this sounds, and is, a little silly, almost all science-fiction demands a leap of faith, and the movie is so engaging and technically brilliant that questioning the plausibility of the premise never entered my mind. Frankly, the set-up is not terribly important and it ruins nothing to say that almost as soon as we meet our intrepid crew, things begin to spiral out of control.

While some of Boyle’s early work (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave) is a tad on the crassly cynical side, there exists a uniformly optimistic tone in his films (witness the ending of 28 Days later and The Beach, as well as the criminally undervalued A Life Less Ordinary) that again springs into being with Sunshine. Boyle wants to believe the best in people, and while his characters must pay the price of such exploration, it is in my mind a questionable exercise to operate otherwise, to examine life and argue for its pointlessness. With that sort of sensibility, one might as well go and coach the Clippers.

Sunshine essentially operates as a series of vignettes of rapidly escalating urgency whose thematic elements tie together. In structuring the film in such a manner, though, Boyle has muddled the waters, bringing idea after idea to the surface but granting short shrift to all. As such, the film feels disjointed, bringing the viewer to the edge, but never pushing him over. Sunshine is asking big questions – about God, moral culpability, sacrifice and death. In refusing to narrow the narrative structure of the film, Boyle has glossed over the subject matter rather than reveling in it. The characters never really get to explore what the movie asks the viewer to consider.

Which is a shame, because Sunshine is undeniably beautiful, a visually spectacular film that twists light to masterful effect, achieving a superior tone and mood that the script probably doesn’t deserve. It is a movie of brilliant sequences, and while it hops from bit to bit and shifts our focus around, ultimately to the detriment of the film as a whole, each sequence is startlingly effective. It is a tense, harrowing film whose actors understand the value of underplaying key moments and whose deaths never fail to evoke a real sense of loss.

The end result being that Sunshine’s only real sin is its failure to achieve greatness, which, I suppose, is hardly a valid criticism at a time when Who’s Your Caddy is given a wide release.

2 1/2 stars


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Helen
    Aug 2 2007

    As I was watching Sunshine I was focused on how much I didn’t like the “surprise” plot twist (only a surprise in that it was so much more interesting and original a film up until that point). You pick up on another key failing in the superficiality of the treatment of the big questions.

    In its visual aspects, Sunshine is superb. Some of the performances are striking and as you say, the film does raise intriguing questions. The mediocre script is the more disappointing because so much of Sunshine is really quite wonderful.

  2. Aug 12 2007

    I agree with both of you. At one point, the film takes a bad turn and it keeps getting worse after that. Parts of this film are brilliant, especially the visual style and the performances. Who would have thought the Human Torch could act?

    But after a very promising start, the second half of the film feels like a bad Star Trek episode. I really feel cheated, because this could have been an amazing movie.

  3. Arash
    Sep 22 2008

    All of pretty much put what I thought it words….throughout the last half hour of the movie all I could think to myself was “man..this movie had so much potential to be one of the greatest”…its a great movie..its just seems like the final editors needed some fresh eyes..all in all great movie…shouldve gotten more attention than shit like 10,000 BC

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