Lest we forget, however, that film is an unstable and unpredictable business; there is no road map to booming box office or Oscar glory. Slumdog Millionaire was originally going to go straight-to-video, only seeing the light of day after a last-minute deal with Fox Searchlight. The year before, Boyle delivered Sunshine, a thought-provoking science fiction film with a great cast - that promptly underperformed after being released on the hottest day of the year. Six years on, the film still has its problems, but it remains an impressive cinematic experience.
Even if nothing else about it worked, Sunshine is a visually arresting film containing moments of beauty and splendour. The film is shot by Alwin H. Kuchler, who worked on Michael Winterbottom on The Claim and Code 46. He makes very conscious choices with the colour palette to juxtapose the interior of Icarus II with the loneliness of space. Inside the ship the screen is dominated by greens and blues that put us at ease, so that when we cut to the bright yellow sun, it feels like it is invading us. It's a very effective ploy of both making the crews' behaviour seem natural and conveying the devastating power of a dying star.
Other aspects of the production design are equally arresting. So many sci-fi films have space suits that feel like direct copies of NASA suits, often out of a desire for realism and direct comparison with our society. The suits in Sunshine, nicknamed 'Kenny suits' after their resemblance to the South Park character, are far more unusual and bespoke; they are showcased for their advanced technology, but also their shortcomings, with characters falling over due to their weight. The design of the Icarus spacecraft is a similar case of verisimilitude; we think we recognise details from Silent Running or Event Horizon, but it still feels like an original design.
Not only does Sunshine look good, it is also effectively directed. Boyle uses subliminal imagery in the form of quick cuts when the crew enters the Icarus I, putting us on edge and forcing us to second-guess ourselves. More effective, however, is the rendition of Pinbacker, who serves as the hyper-stylised intruder to this gritty vision of space.
Boyle shot Mark Strong's scenes with two lenses simultaneously, on in and one out of focus, and then overlaid the images in post-production. The resulting blurry effect puts us in an area of panic, withholding the villain in plain sight and making him more frightening. Even as we see him right in front of us, we get only the merest hint of his face or the extent of his burns. As a result he increases in power and takes on a more mythical, demonic quality, being much more Hellraiser than Hallowe'en.
There is a very conscious effort on Boyle's part to situate Sunshine in the pantheon of classic science fiction. While it is a product of its time in its budget, effects and directorial style, the works it draws upon are all at the smarter, bleaker, more introspective end of the sci-fi genre. There are big hints of Alien in the blue-collar surroundings and the various hierarchies that spring up within the crew. Pinbacker's character is a direct nod to John Carpenter's Dark Star, which subsequent led to Alien. If you were feeling facetious, you could speculate that this character is what Sergeant Pinback could have become had he survived past the end credits.
Like Alien and Event Horizon after it, the plot of Sunshine centres around the terrifying consequences of answering a distress call, though the monster in this case is a lot less Freudian or rooted in body horror. The airlock sequence is a straightforward nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, while the scenes in the oxygen garden are clearly inspired by Silent Running, with Michelle Yeoh standing in for Bruce Dern.
There are also thematic nods to Solaris in the crew's memories of Earth, and their troubling dreams of their families back home. And in its final reel the film does embrace or invoke many conventions of the slasher movie sub-genre. But where a lesser film would channel these without bringing anything new to the table, Sunshine raises a number of interesting ideas of its own. Not all of them are explored fully or resolved to a satisfying degree, but until its final act it is very much a thinking person's sci-fi film.
One such theme that keeps cropping up is finding or perceiving beauty in acts of great destruction. This is most evident in Pinbacker, who believes that allowing the human race to die out is part of God's plan. But the other characters reflect this idea too, albeit in ways that are far more equivocal. Capa reflects on the Sun as something that simultaneously kills and brings life; he is drawn to understanding how something can inspire such awe in the face of possible malice.
The film also explores the ethics of suicide and despair, something borne out in both Trey's fate and that of the human race. Capa's confidence in the mission and its eventual success is contrasted with the reluctance of the crew and the extremism of Pinbacker. Both take the failure of Icarus I to mean that death is increasingly the only option, differing merely on how and when they wish to die.
Within this there is a discussion of the interests of the many versus those of the few. After a near-miss that leads to Kaneda's death and Trey's suicidal tendencies, the crew speculate about how best to conserve the oxygen. In doing so the films raises a number of interesting questions. Does prioritising the needs of the many actually erode our humanity - for instance, agreeing to kill Trey to have enough oxygen to deliver the payload? If so, are we losing the very thing that the payload is designed to preserve? Is there any point surviving if we have no morals or ideals to survive for?
The film also delves into theology, using both the mission and the villain as focal points for a discussion of God's nature. The Sun symbolises God, something or someone that can simultaneously be viewed as a benevolent creator or a needlessly vindictive tormentor. Boyle described Pinbacker as the embodiment of fundamentalism; where Capa uses the circumstances to shape his ideas through scientific observation, Pinbacker forces his ideas onto the circumstances and will not be dissuaded from his calling.
But much like Life of Pi last year, this is the point where Sunshine starts losing its grip. Both films are feasts for the senses which feel amazing when you watch them, but both are intellectually and theologically undernourished. There are lots of interesting jumping-on points, but none of them are fully seized upon. There is a difference between developing a sense of ambiguity and idly raising ideas in the hope of seeming profound, and Sunshine settles for the latter just a little too much.
The film's scientific inaccuracies have been widely documented, and for the most part the objections are valid: you couldn't 'restart' a sun with a bomb the size of Manhattan. But this is not a problem for the most part, since the science is a backdrop for an examination of themes and morals pertaining to the human condition. It becomes a problem in the final section, when the film shifts into horror territory and common sense is suspended in order to kill the cast and blow things up. The film suffers from the same basic problem as Event Horizon: it builds to great heights, and then takes the easy way out.
Sunshine is an engrossing and visually arresting film which delivers on enough of its substance to make it worth the trip. While it doesn't fulfil on all of its ideas or end in a way that's entirely satisfying, it is a well-directed slice of sci-fi melancholy which will burn its way into your memory. If nothing else it proves it is still possible to make sci-fi films about ideas - even if it took more than 8 minutes for audiences to catch on.
First of all the film looks good, they have definitely taken pages out of the 'Alien' book for the look and feel of Sunshine. Its very much a bunch of everyday working astros living together to get a job done, even down to the 'sitting around a table drinking and talking' scenes which hark back to the 'Alien' scenes just before Mr Hurt has some bad indigestion.
The acting is stable, nothing great but good and the whole idea, though slightly implausible I must add, is a nice one and is brought alive really well, its space but not too stupid like 'Armageddon'.
The problem is its alittle dull for most of the time, all wind and not much fart and I did tend to lose the plot. It doesn't explain itself to well, and I found in alot of places its actually difficult to see what's going on because its so dark and the camera is flying about the place with flashbacks or what someones thinking, alittle surreal here and there. The secondary plot about one of the other spaceships crew going nuts and killing everyone is poor and doesn't fit the story frankly, again they are borrowing ideas and styles from other films such as 'Hellraiser' and 'Event Horizon'. This spoils the whole thing as it becomes a cheesy horror flick all of a sudden, if they had stayed to the more sensible side of things it would have been so much better.
I think it may grow on me, its quite good but not as good as I hoped, still I recommend it.
Sunshine is a 2007 film directed by Danny Boyle about a team of scientists who are sent into space on a ship called the Icarus 2, armed with what is essentially a mega-nuke to try and re-ignite the sun to stop it from dying and prevent the end of the human race. The previous journey taking place 7 years ago failed, but for unknown reasons. Things start going wrong and the team find Icarus 1 and decide to board it because they were low on oxygen, allowing a very interesting tale unravel...
This film really blew me away! The story is quite clever and enticing, making it perfect to entertain yourself for an afternoon! The characters are well played, the atmosphere captured well, and the story told cleverly and effectively. And what made it brilliant was the ending. Not to give anything away, but it's one of those endings where you think that it's got possibly the best ending they could have done with the film! Definitely worth getting, and especially since I managed to pick my copy up for only £1!
1 dollop of "Solaris".
Half oz of "Event Horizon".
1lb of "Mission to Mars".
A generous helping of "Alien".
And a sprinkle of "The Shining".
Give them to visionary director Danny Boyle to shake them up and...Voila.
In the not-too-distant future, the sun is about to die. A crew is sent to re-ignite it with a nuclear bomb; when they fail, a new team sets out to finish the job. But they find that flying to the least hospitable place in the solar system and staying sane and alive is no simple matter.
Boyle is Britain's very own Ang Lee in his ability to continually switch between genres. This is his attempt at Science Fiction and it's a damn good one at that. His use of atmosphere is the most striking thing about this, with eerie and highly effective sound effects and an excellent music score by Underworld adding to the overall sense of foreboding and creepiness. Using a multi-cultural cast also works in it's favour in the way that you don't know who will perish at any given moment, very much like Ridley Scott's "Alien". As mentioned above - and by most other viewers - it has a lot in common with several films of this genre and the denoument unfortunately turns more toward the "Event Horizon" side of horror. It doesn't entirely work and feels a little tacked on, as if Boyle and writer Alex Garland ran out of ideas. However, this is still an impressively handled and often powerful outing for Boyle.
A very underated addition to the science fiction genre and one of Danny Boyle's finest films. His collaborations with writer Alex Garland has produced consistantly good results.
We meet our crew aboard Icarus II, already en route to their mission: the sun, where they must send a bomb into its core that will reignite it and save the world from freezing to death. The crew are all tired, scared, and they are almost certain that they won't see their families again. Two of them are obsessed with seeing the sun as if it were like seeing God. Then things go wrong as the crew intercepts a distress call from Icarus I, the ship that disappeared six years ago and failed to complete its mission. The film becomes an edge-of-your-seat thriller while at the same time, never forgetting the heart of its story, seeing the best and worst of humanity in the most trying of circumstances. Brilliant filmmaking! This is the disaster picture Hollywood should have made a decade occur, instead of pumping out expensive crap like Armageddon and Deep Impact.
Danny Boyle delivers yet another masterpiece with Sunshine. The story follows a team as they aim to deliver their payload, a Stella bomb into
the heart of the dying Sun in hope of saving mankind. We watch as the crew members become fascinated and finally totally engrossed by the power of the Sun, raising
questions about God and their very being. A potential disaster to their mission injects an inevitable change of pace and race to complete their mission but its the
build up to that point where the film is the big winner for me.
As a fan of the sci fi genre and especially films where you get to 'hang out' with the characters, I think Sunshine is a fine example of how a Sci Fi film should be.
Exciting and thought provoking, Sunshine will burn its image into your mind long after you've closed your eyes.
"At the end of time, a moment will come when just one man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here... but stardust. "