by Suw on March 15, 2007

Last Friday I had the good fortune to be invited to see Sunshine, Danny Boyle and Alex Garland's new movie, along with a bunch of other bloggers and film website reviewers. We have been asked not to officially review the film, because there are still press previews to be done and they didn't want piss off the journalists. So this isn't a review, even if it might at some points seem like one.
I had no idea what Sunshine was about before I turned up, despite the fact that I've known that Gia Milinovich was working on the official website for months and months. I hadn't even seen the trailer.

I'm not quite sure what I expected, to be honest, but what I got was a beautifully shot film. The golden colours are gorgeous, as are the shots of the sun, some of which I've been told are real. It's quite amazing to sit and watch images of the sun fill the screen in front of you, this huge enormous ball of seething fire, writhing and boiling in all its white and golden glory. That alone is breathtaking, but the contrast between the brilliance of the sun and the black coldness of space serves well to make both seem so much more fearsome.

Sunshine concerns the mission of the Icarus II, Earth's last best hope of salvation. The Sun is dying, and with it the Earth – now a hostile icy place. The Icarus I was sent seven years previously to deliver a bomb to restart the Sun, but when it fails the global community gathers together the last reserves of fissile material to create Icarus II upon which the fate of mankind rests. The eight astronauts' voyage goes well until Harvey, the ship's communications officer, hears the distress beacon from the Icarus I which is now drifting in space inside the 'dead zone' from which no signals can be sent to or received from Earth.
At this point, things all start to unravel.
One of the best bits about Sunshine, other than the fact that it's one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, is the sound design. It's just amazing. It reminds me of how it used to feel to play bass guitar with a really good amp and speaker set-up. The bass just reverberates through you, it connects with you in a very physical way, from heel to sternum, and feeling the sound like that changes the way you hear it.
When you combine the almost overwhelmingly intense look of the film with some incredibly powerful sound design, you end up with something that is a bit like being thumped in the chest. If I'm honest, I found the tension almost too much – I'm not very good at dealing with tension in films, primarily because I'm squeamish so at any sort of a hint that there may be violence I get scared and want to hide behind a cushion. Of course, there were no cushions so I hid under my coat instead.
As for the acting, well, Cillian Murphy dominates any film he's in, if only because he has those amazingly blue eyes that just seem to bore right through me. But the whole cast of Sunshine is strong, no one really hits a bum note, and there's a great group chemistry that's often lacking from ensemble pieces. Equally, whilst Cillian's Capa – the physicist who is the only person who truly understands how the bomb works – is central, he doesn't overshadow the other characters. I particularly liked the ship's engineer, Mace, played by Chris Evans, who is possibly the only one with a clear character arc and who gets to have fun with redemption.
But if Sunshine has a flaw, it's that it doesn't really know what it's trying to be, weaving from genre to genre in a slightly unsatisfactory way. It starts of as a standard sci-fi, thence develops into disaster movie, then on to a psycho-drama, a slasher flick, a running man flick until finally the hero triumphs. There are big dollops of 2001: A Space Odessy, of Solaris, of Event Horizon (I'm told – haven't seen that one), and Alien. And there's one particular plot twist, which I'm not going to give away, that I saw coming from a mile off and which I was really disappointed they used.
When I came out of the screening room, Gia asked me what I thought, and I couldn't answer her right away. Sunshine, even with its slightly predictable plot, is a breathtaking movie. It honestly stunned me into silence, and I had to have myself a little quiet moment and a think and a sip or two of wine before I could start to speak coherently again. You see, Boyle lulls you into a false sense of security through the first act, but once the first turning point is reached, he never lets up, building the tension all the way through until the climax comes and when it does you're left feeling winded, all the air knocked out of you.
I said to Gia on Friday that Sunshine wasn't a film that I'd want to go back and see again, but now a little time has passed and I've had the chance to reflect, I can't wait for it to open in the cinema so I can go back and watch it a second time round. Films like this I tend to get more out of on a second viewing, because I know what's coming so I can enjoy myself instead of hide under my jacket.
So, go see Sunshine. It's just like The Weather Project on steroids.

Technorati Tags: ,

Anonymous March 15, 2007 at 2:47 pm

This is definitely on the cross line of review/no-review!
However i've had a similar reaction to the dust settling and will indeed be checking it out again when released.

Anonymous March 15, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Oops, do you think I've been naughty? 😉
I actually interpreted the 'no review' request as a 'please don't give away the ending and please don't publish a review on any site that could be construed as a professional review site. So it's a good job I didn't mention that they *coughburblemuttermumble* and then they *gurglemurblehiccupsplutter* in the end. Cos that would be mean.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: