[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B004VLKXG0][/pullquote] Sunshine is director Danny Boyle’s atempt at a pure science fiction film. His previous films have had sci-fi elements, but never before has he set the whole film in the future and in space. Drawing heavy influences from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, the film was a commercial flop, making only $32m from a budget of $40m. However the cast and crew, almost unknown at the time, have become household names and big stars in their own rights.
Set 50 years in the future, Sunshine sees Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) is a member of a crew of astronauts aboard the Icarus II, sent to drop a ‘payload’ into the sun, which will theoretically reignite the dying star and save humanity. On the way to complete their mission they notice strange incidents occurring and finally discover the missing Icarus I spaceship that went missing years before.
The majority of Sunshine’s action takes place in the living quarters of Icarus II, so it is key that the crew are engaging enough to hold our attention. Luckily Boyle has always cast his films well and the likes of Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy and Rose Byrne all impress as the increasingly put-upon crew members. They react to the tension in a variety of very human ways, and it’s easy for the audience to be sucked into the increasing tension and sense of forboding.
Much like Ridley Scott’s Alien, Sunshine’s greatest strength is the mystery surrounding the Icarus I combined with the seeming race against the clock to drop the payload and save humanity. We are treated to spliced images from the original crew, which heightens the sense of threat and the unnerving sense that something very strange is happening in deep space. Sadly this is also where the film lets itself down, as the final act and revelation are just a little too contrived, it is almost rescued with the final scenes, but sadly by then the damage is done.
Like a lot of horror films, once the mysterious threat is revealed all of the tension dissipates. Somehow it is scarier not knowing what they, and by association us, are up against. Luckily the nods to classic 1970s science fiction, the good cast, superb soundtrack and excellently paced beginning and middle, make Sunshine one of the most interesting and exciting science fiction films of recent years.