'Sunshine' (2007) // Words: Saam Das
I haven't been especially taken with either of Danny Boyle's last two films - the multiple Oscar-winning 'Slumdog Millionaire' nor '127 Hours' - and it pains me that a thought-provoking film like 'Sunshine' has been overlooked in favour of the aforementioned offerings. It's far from perfect sci-fi but the film counts Quentin Tarantino as one of its most prominent fans.
'Sunshine' was Boyle's second collaboration with the screenwriter Alex Garland, arriving five years after their acclaimed zombie horror '28 Days Later'. Both films shared a similarly apocalyptic theme yet 'Sunshine' was based in an entirely different and altogether awe-inspiring context.
Set in 2057, the film followed the mission of Icarus II, charged with reviving the dying Sun to prevent mankind's extinction. As the film progresses, we learn the fate of the first Icarus mission and witness the unravelling of the second mission. Unfortunately, 'Sunshine' soon descends into a disappointing imitation of 'Event Horizon'.
Mr Tarantino has called the third act "far beyond a disappointment....a betrayal" (listen here for his fascinating full discussion, which contains spoilers). Tarantino appears to have a flair for the melodramatic in his film criticism, as well as his filmmaking, yet he also notes that the final act of the movie "does not diminish the power of its first two acts" - a statement which I wholeheartedly support.
The ambience of 'Sunshine' is perhaps the singular (yet multi-faceted) element that elevates the film above its contemporaries. The combination of the fantastic, epic symphonies of John Murphy (his unparalleled 'Sunshine In Adagio D Minor' piece, in particular) and the jaw-dropping visual effects immerses the audience almost entirely. The acting is a key facet to this ambience, and until the ill-advised turn to horror, we remain engrossed in the crew's space mission.
Names like Michelle Yeoh and Cillian Murphy should be more familiar to film fans but there is a fantastic variety of actors on offer also, from Cliff Curtis and Hiroyuki Sanada to our very own Benedict Wong. Many of the film's actors are only receiving higher profile roles almost five years on - Chris Evans and Rose Byrne, most notably.
Behind the scenes, the film also retained a certain Professor Brian Cox as its scientific consultant - he offers a full DVD commentary, should you wish to hear his perspective on 'Sunshine'. Indeed, seek out the DVD purely because you must own this tremendously underrated British sci-fi thriller. Or on Blu-Ray, for that matter, which will provide an even greater visual feast. You won't regret it.
'Sunshine' is available to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray. It is also showing tonight (03/07/11) on Channel 4 in the UK at 22.00.