Sunshine: Dystopian Sci-Fi Film at 15 Years

Sunshine. Courtesy of Searchlight.

Sunshine is a dystopian film that could only come from the minds of both director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland.

It’s one of those doom-and-gloom weeks so why not watch a film where astronauts risk their lives to repair the sun. Does it work? That’s for you watch the film and find out! In any event, this film recently marked its 15th anniversary since its theatrical release. The home entertainment release includes deleted scenes and an alternate ending. Unfortunately, my library DVD kept skipping, forcing me to rent the film through a digital retailer. As much as I preach the purchasing of digital media, they do have their downfalls. But better to have it on hand than to, oh, I don’t know, shelve it and take the tax write off. Too soon?

Filmmaker Danny Boyle teams up with Garland again for their third collaboration. This one involves an international crew for the Icarus II mission. As with any film that targets an American audience, everyone is speaking English in the film. It’s 2057 and the Earth is freezing because the sun is dying. Talk about having a climate crisis! Anyway, things are going normal on the ship until they head pass by Mercury. This is when they pick up what turns out to be the distress signal from the first Icarus ship. They could either stay on course or come to their rescue. That is, of course, if anyone on the other ship is still alive. It’s been some seven years so there’s no telling what the status is.

Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) suggests to their captain, Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), that they pick up the other ship’s nuclear payload, thinking two bombs would have better results. Engineer James Mace (Chris Evans) is against the idea. Meanwhile, their navigator, Trey (Benedict Wong), sets them on course but foolishly forgets to realign the shields. It’s now a disaster just waiting to happen. For a film with a minimal cast, there is still a lot of people to keep up with. Pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne), biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), doctor/psychological officer Searle (Cliff Curtis), and comms officer/#2 Harvey (Troy Garity) round out the Icarus II crew. The film runs shy of two hours but again, you have to keep up. I will say that things get really weird with the introduction of Pinbacker (Mark Strong)

How did they do with the science of it all? Well, scientists were critical of their actions. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Filmmakers either get it right or wrong. Remember The Day After Tomorrow? Nearly 20 years later, scientists are still critical of what happens in the film. Outside of this, there are interesting choices being made in the film. There are no cuts to a planet in peril during their mission. We also do not get many shots of the ship from the outside.

I’m not going to lie in the fact that I got 2001: A Space Odyssey vibes in watching this film. For me, that’s not exactly a good thing. Where a film like 2001 was impressive in its visual effects, the film was lacking in the pacing department. In terms of the story, dealing with science and physics is normal. It’s where they get into religion is where they can potentially lose you as a viewer. We all have our own religious beliefs but I’m not really going to expand on that at the moment.

For Danny Boyle, this is his only foray into the sci-fi genre. This can be a demanding genre, even for a $40 million budget. However, Boyle called it quits with sci-fi as a result of this film–or at least any films set in space. If you never try, you never know, right?

Sunshine is a film that is hit or miss and while your mileage may vary, one cannot deny the cinematic ambition of it all.

DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
CAST: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh

Searchlight Pictures released Sunshine on , 2007. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.