Danny Boyle has made many films, some neglected, some which pick up Oscars and some which are just strange. Sunshine is in the latter category as it’s a hard-science/horror/haunted house movie which in itself is interesting as there is only really Event Horizon and the Alien movies which share that similar vibe. The movie is complex as it spends a lot of effort explaining the idea of restarting the sun, which sounds bonkers but the usage of a scientifically plausible method in a scientifically plausible spacecraft helps it a long way. It has a proper use of orbital manoeuvres as well as an interesting way of dealing with life support and food. Along with the hard-science, it has the horror movie aspect with the mysterious death of the crew, suicides, and a not entirely trustworthy AI which makes me think of HAL or GERTY, all culminating in a rather bittersweet ending.
With a crew of eight you can lose track of some of the characters when they disappear, especially when stuff goes wrong, which it does with a horrifying regularity with all manner of mistakes. It features a fairly typical set of people with their various skill sets. Cillian Murphy plays Robert Capa, who is the physicist of the whole operation and the closest we get to a central character. The characterisation of the movie isn’t great but it does enough to keep interest. What you are here for is the cool imagery which the film has in spades, along with some rather interesting philosophy, some unpleasant deaths and some gripping action sequences. One of the best features a jump between two vessels without space suits which shows how massively cold space is while showing that Boyle really cared about scientific realism in sprit, if not necessarily in its entirety.
The imagery is particularly good with the central character of the sun permeating every aspect of the ship. Boyle makes the sun the central enemy rather than the one which drops in for the plot’s sake in the latter half of the movie. I often like to compare Sunshine with Moon (2010) as both are small British sci-fi movies with a very strong scientific aspect at the centre of their stories. Both share really impressive imagery and sound. In Sunshine, the soundtrack is rather good if not as memorable as Moon’s but still really fitting for the movie.
Danny Boyle once said that this was his favourite movie that he made which I think speaks volumes about its creativity and innovation. It should be remembered as one of the best sci-fi movies in recent years due its strong plot and imagery and the fact that scientists were involved in guaranteeing accuracy for much of the film, including the horribly smug Prof Brian Cox who was one of the main people involved in its consultancy. That aside, this movie is certainly a bit of an overlooked gem.
Review by Harry Riedl