Movie Review | Sunshine
Movie summary: A team of international astronauts are sent on a dangerous mission to reignite the dying Sun with a nuclear fission bomb in 2057. (IMDb)
I like a lot of Danny Boyle's films, but this is probably my favourite of the lot. It's not just the great combination of him and Alex Garland working together again, but I think it might be just how good this film both looks and sounds that really seals Sunshine as number one.
And it does look drop-dead gorgeous - everything from set design, to prop work, plus the fantastic special and visual effects just all look utterly amazing. And none of it feels out of place or inconsistent it its design when compared to any other part.
That's quite the achievement for a film set in space and decades from now. It all does look advanced beyond our current technological level, but not unrealistically so - everything looks and feels like where humanity could be by the time of Sunshine's setting in 2057.
This is all complemented by the terrific sound design and truly breath-taking score. No joke, I've listened to the music composed by Underworld and John Murphy so often I've lost count - it really is that good.
There are so many fantastic pieces of music used so well to enhance what we're seeing that it does make you wonder why more movies can't achieve the same standard. Couple that with perfect silences, or the hellish roaring of the sun, or any of the other audio effects and Sunshine proves to be just as much of a feast for the ears as it is for the eyes.
As if that wasn't enough, the cast here is ludicrously good, with just the right level of familiarity after living together for a short time before starting filming to make sure that the group dynamics worked. It's a neat trick that definitely paid off, with the characters all feeling like they genuinely are a crew on a mission rather than a bunch of individuals stuck together for the sake of the story.
Hell, if you run down the cast list now, it's amazing to think about how much more well-known so many of them have become since this movie came out - with most of them having appeared in various comic-book properties since then.
The most obvious of these is Chris Evans as Mace, whose performance here is what sold me on him being cast as Captain America way back when the MCU was in its infancy. Mace might come across as brash and a little hot-headed, but he is also willing to do the right thing when needed, regardless of the sacrifice required.
Just go to the link above and realise how many of the cast you've seen in other big-budget - or at least more well-known films - and enjoy the fact that they're not slumming it in this relatively cheap sci-fi movie. Everyone brings their A-game to their role and clearly aren't there just to pick up a cheque or pad out their resume.
The simplicity of the story really helps the cast shine, with extended sequences filled with the crew interacting or having to work together to fix a problem. They all have their own voices, with the script giving each character a set role and area of expertise that certainly helps to differentiate them, but that feels to me like undermining the great performances everyone gives.
The one issue that many have with this film, and I do too - albeit to a lesser degree - is the sudden change in tone very near the end when the crew discover the previous ship sent on the same mission. The movie shifts from 'hard' science-fiction to what is effectively a slasher movie and it doesn't really work.
It certainly fits narratively, and Sunshine does foreshadow what's to come - with Cliff Curtis' character especially - but the change in tone is probably a little too strong and might have been more effective if executed with a little more subtlety.
It's a drastic change, especially being the final section of the film and therefore probably the last thing audiences will remember about the movie. Which is a shame, as it will probably overshadow the excellent character work featured up to that point.
As I said above, it doesn't really detract too much from the film for me, but I can certainly see why other people wouldn't enjoy it. It leaves the crew's efforts as a bittersweet triumph, and will leave you wondering how things would've gone if the finale had played out along the same lines of the rest of the movie.
Sunshine is a great film only let down by an ending that, while not poor, does drastically change the tone of the film in a way that doesn't really sit too well with what comes before. However, it looks and sounds incredible, and the cast is just amazing. Definitely recommended.