Tuesday, November 4, 2014


This review is spoiler-free.

Yeah, that kind of sunshine.

The sun is dying. Earth is freezing over. Humanity is down to its final hope -- a spacecraft called Icarus II, manned by a crew of eight, on whose shoulders the fate of the world rests. It carries a huge bomb, the size of Manhattan, designed to kick-start the sun into shining again as brightly as before. An Icarus I was sent before them, but it disappeared, failing its mission, and there are not enough resources to make an Icarus III.

We find the crew of Icarus II already having endured all but the very last of the sixteen-month journey to the sun, but that long trip of slowly building tension is nothing compared to the final fraction of their mission.

The crew of Icarus II enjoy a view: Communications officer Harvey (Troy Garity) physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy) biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne) doctor/psychiatrist Searle (Cliff Curtis) navigator Trey (Benedict Wong) and engineer Mace (Chris Evans). Absent: Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada).

I don't know if this is a commonly unknown/overlooked/under-appreciated sci-fi film, but based on the un-enticing title ("Sunshine" makes me think of lighthearted comedy, something as far away from this film as its characters are from home) and the fact that I only just discovered it, I imagine it must be. And typically, when it comes to dark science fiction, the best of the best are the ones that fly their unique little spacecrafts subtly under the radar of the general masses of explosion-obsessed moviegoers. Moon and Gattaca for two examples. Sunshine is not an exception.

However, top-notch effects and explosions do have a significant share in the screen time, and is one of the two great and defining characteristics of the film. Icarus II is an amazingly thoughtfully designed ship, and director Danny Boyle makes fantastic use of its unusual shape (and its close proximity to the sun) to create some truly striking cinematography.

Being so close to the sun is breath-takingly beautiful, but also breath-taking in a less nice way...

He also has the patience required to build quality suspense -- the majority of the film is wonderful in that department, moving along with an intricate grace and saturating in suspense, but in the climax it turns more to action, filmed with closeups and quick-cuts, and intentionally blurred, which is too confusing and dizzying to be thoroughly engrossing for me. I found myself wishing it hadn't made that final twist, (though its reveal was absolutely, terrifyingly jaw-dropping (on that note: please do not watch the trailer!)) but I can't think of what I would have done instead.

Amongst the eight of the crew, there are two easily recognizable faces. Cillian Murphy, ever an antagonist in today's blockbuster, but this movie serves as evidence that he is also more than capable of being a compelling hero. He holds the film together, his character reflecting the film's tone. And, Chris Evans, before he escaped the typecast of the bad boy, and became one of the more famous boy scout-like heroes. Here he's no boy scout, but does have a Cap-like leadership quality about him.

Definitely my two favorite characters of the movie. Coincidentally, the other two here may be my two least favorite.

The other six all have their roles to play, and I have nothing bad to say about any performances, though Evans and Murphy left the biggest impressions. The characters' development is very understated, but they all develop well and individually and are very realistic. The different ways each of them deal with their stressful situation -- and the even more dire situations that arise from it -- is the second defining aspect of this film, and possibly the greater one. There aren't many questions posed that haven't been asked before, but they still make us think all over again.

This is a movie not for everyone. The R-rating conveys that message, although it's a very mild R as far as they go, but more than that -- enjoying this movie is not necessarily synonymous with thinking it's a good movie. Undoubtedly this is a well-made film; made thoughtfully in order to provoke thought; written well, acted well, and put together with a unique, artistic eye. It spends as much time musing on the nature of man as it does the deadly beauty of the stars, then leaves you in a dazed in its powerful wake, to wonder for yourself what exactly it all meant. And it is possible to see all that, and think all that, and still come up somewhat short in terms of "enjoyment" -- but that doesn't make it any less of a good movie -- and I enjoy good movies.

"So if you wake up one morning, and it's a particularly beautiful day, you'll know we made it. Okay, I'm signing out."


  1. I've heard SUCH mixed things about this movie! The reviews I've read for it have been good but a couple of friends told me that they found it super weird and depressing and that put me off. But your review has encouraged me to seek it out for myself and make up my own mind :)

    1. That doesn't surprise me at all. It's definitely the sort of movie that depends on the taste of the viewer. I liked it mostly from an artistic standpoint, but I also really love the genre. :) I hope you do like it!