Director Danny Boyle has taken on druggies (Trainspotting), beautiful beaches (The Beach), the living dead (28 Days Later) and creepy, psycho children (Millions, which I didn't like but other critics did), and now he has taken on another realm altogether, that of the sci-fi thriller. Sunshine is not your ordinary science fiction film, in that it does not feature aliens, the military or massive destruction - instead, it will go down among hard core fans as one of the best sci-fi films of recent memory, and it still has plenty of suspense and action to keep the rest of us thoroughly entertained.
Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies), Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) and Rose Burns ("Damages") star among a few others as a group of astronauts and scientists who have been sent on a four year mission to detonate the sun and bring it back to life, as it has slowly started to die and plunge the Earth into an endless winter. Halfway through their journey, the crew is nearing the meaningful part of their mission, but when they receive a broadcast from another spaceship they long thought was destroyed, they shift course to check things out. A miscalculation sends their ship and mission to the brink of destruction, but they must figure out a way to press on - or all of humanity will die.
While the concept of reigniting a star is a bit preposterous, Boyle's attention to detail makes Sunshine a highly believable and suspense thriller that defies the genre and yet embraces it at the same time. On a budget of $50 million, it appears as though no expense was wasted, as the special effects are absolutely amazing. Along with Transformers, 300 and Ratatouille, the quality of special effects have been taken to the next level this year, and Sunshine ranks right alongside the big boys. But visual effects alone don't make a movie. Boyle takes full advantage of the graphics and incorporates them into his constantly moving and intriguing style; the synergy is amazing. Sunshine is one of the most dynamic sci-fi films I've ever seen.
Visually stunning, Sunshine is also an intense and wonderfully done thriller. Aided by great performances and surprisingly deep character development, the movie always maintains a high level of tension, and the tension mounts the farther the movie progresses. I found a few parts to be a little slow, but when things start heating up, things really start heating up. Even after the action ensues, Boyle takes things one step farther by turning the film into a near horror picture after the crew picks up an uninvited guest.
Even the ending is quite good, even if there are a few parts that seemed a bit over the type. After doing space drama, sci-fi action and horror, Boyle seemed to want to take things one step further and do classic sci-fi by throwing in a few off-the-wall moments that didn't really seem to fit with the rest of the film. The ending is a bit surreal, and it never made sense to me why he took this approach. Still, overall, the ending is quite exciting.
Sunshine has a few flaws, but overall is a pretty impressive film. Fans of real sci-fi should revel in the fact that a movie has been created that embraces many classic themes, while still delivering all the thrills and visuals that mainstream audiences need. Highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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