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Monday, July 09, 2007


ModFab On...Sunshine

Starring Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Troy Garrity, Cliff Curtis, Kiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, and Benedict Wong
Written by Alex Garland
Directed by Danny Boyle
1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Fox Searchlight
Trailer - Soundtrack

Like the films it grandly and unabashedly pays homage to, Sunshine is serious science fiction for those who prefer to think of space's real possibilities rather than escapist fantasies. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it employs the cold, quiet expanse of the galaxy to expose the fragility of human existence; like Solaris, it approaches the mysteries of space as a chance for metaphoric dreaming. And like those films (and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, its other spiritual godfather), it sometimes makes preposterous leaps of faith in the hopes of transporting its audience to a deeper appreciation of our current existence...and why it is so important to look beyond our differences to what is essential for the inhabitants of this planet.

Sunshine's chameleonic director, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, The Beach) approaches his first foray into science-fiction with a poetic mix of Kubrickian reserve and Spielbergian wonder, and the interplay between them is astonishing to watch. In an unnamed future, the inhabitants of the spaceship Icarus II have strapped the world's most enormous bomb to their cargo hold, which they are delivering to our rapidly-dying sun in a last-ditch effort to restart it. Having left Earth six years before in the clutches of a solar winter, the entirety of humanity rests in their quest. As one can imagine, this burden has turned the crew into a tense, emotional group...and when the mission goes afoul, high-stakes heroism is required from individuals battered by doubt, confusion, and the solar system's largest elemental force.

Like many space operas, Sunshine is a showcase for designers; despite fine performances from the multiculural cast (including a career best from Chris Evans as a tough-talking pilot and an elegant turn from Michelle Yeoh), this film is best when hypnotizing us with its fiery destination, a massive achievement in the world of CGI. Cinematographer Alwin Kuchler (Code 43) works magic in transforming our idea of spaceships, including a tropical "oxygen garden" and dazzling solar viewing room. Boyle, for his part, applies the lessons learned in 28 Days Later to balance stillness and fury in equal amounts, creating a terrifyingly claustrophic experience for the viewer.

This isn't to say there aren't imperfections; there are, certainly. A brooding dread pervades Sunshine, giving the gripping drama a heaviness rare in films of any genre these days. Its lack of frivolity isn't the only thing that makes it a tough sell; some of the metaphors are overplayed (a seedling is given the sad task of representing human hope...don't ask), and screenwriter Alex Garland's ending -- an otherworldly experience that doesn't quite gel with the hard-science story -- will polarize audiences. But for those who can enjoy the evocative, expressive style and its reach for meaning, Sunshine will be a glorious thing to behold.

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