‘Sunshine’ Review: God Dooms Us to Die

Posted in The Screening Room by - March 07, 2015

Originally for Wednesday we were going to have a midweek bonus episode of The Kulturecast where we talked about Sunshine. However, that got nixed and so now I get to write about a film that flew pretty far under the radar, or too close to the Sun if you’re down for Icarus puns.

Sunshine falls into a class of films for me where I enjoyed it so much, I’m going to try my best to talk about it at length but not give any important story points away. This is not a movie that I’d want to ruin for anyone; it’s that good. The cinematography is incredible. The special effects are great. The acting is outstanding. I’m honestly surprised that this film was released in 2007 and I haven’t even heard of it till now.

The plot of Sunshine revolves around the idea that in the actually quite near future of 2057, our Sun is burning out and will consequently kill all life in the solar system. The Earth is in a perpetual winter and the world powers at be have developed and initiated the Icarus Project. The idea here is that a small crew of scientists and astronauts fly a nuclear warhead, henceforth noted as the Payload, and jettison it into the dying Sun. Theoretically the almost instantaneous surge nuclear power is supposed to relight the Sun and allow the human race to continue.

On the face of it, Sunshine isn’t your classic disaster film. There is no immediate danger. There is no cataclysmic event initiating the end of the world. All we have is Earth and civilization’s impending doom; to me that makes a better story. There’s no bullshit logic and bad writing here, we simply have a group of people that need to accomplish a task to save the world. My favorite thing about the writing in this story is that screenwriter Alex Garland was able to accomplish this without requiring ridiculous acts of “selfless heroism” to perpetuate the story forward constantly. In fact there is only one instance of this in the entire film.

This film also is aided by some rather excellent performances from some actors one may not be completely familiar with. Michelle Yeoh, Troy GarityHiroyuki SanadaBenedict Wong, and Cliff Curtis where extraordinarily impressive and have made a list of actors that I plan on following to see what they’re in next. The main cast is rounded out with Cillian MurphyRose Byrne, and Chris Evans, three actors that I’m rather familiar with and was still impressed with their depth of character and performance. All eight of these actors and actresses comprise the main crew of Icarus II, and all eight of them gave incredibly human performances. More often then not in sci-fi and/or disaster films, the performances aren’t true to life, and create a facade that is distracting to the viewer. Here, it’s rather refreshing to see these performances because it feels real. You get the sense that they’re under stress, that they realize the magnitude of their mission, and that failure is not an option.

Mark Strong plays the antagonist here, however, I will not give away any more plot points because I want the turn to be as impressive to you as it was for me. Although, it is worth noting that Strong has made a niche for himself playing cold, calculating villains and he’s rather fantastic as them.

If you are looking for a good sci-fi/disaster/thriller, Sunshine is a solid option that is an ambitious excursion that is reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, reflects the industrial grunge and crew friction of Alien, pays tribute to the greenhouse ecology of Silent Running, and even possesses the unraveling sanity of Dark Star.

Final Say: Watch It

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