It’s approximately 50 years in the future and scientists on Earth have discovered that soon the sun will burn itself out. Seven years prior to the start of the film, the Icarus project was initiated with the plan being to deliver a tremendous nuclear payload into the heart of the sun and hopefully re-igniting it. Something went wrong though and Icarus I wasn’t heard from again. As the movie starts, Icarus II is in the midst of trying again, closing in on the planet Mercury, when they start to receive a distress signal… from Icarus I.
And in a nutshell that’s the basic premise of Danny Boyle’s newest movie, Sunshine a hard science fiction film that’s in the vein of movies like Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey and it’s sequel 2010. And I think it’s a damn fine piece of work.
Boyle’s film, is not only a bit of a thematic throwback, but a technical one as well. It’s beautiful to look at, but it’s not at all a heavily CGI-rendered piece. If CGI is used, it’s in more subtle effects, but nothing as sweeping as you’ve seen in other films.
Now I’m no science whiz, and don’t pretend to be one. I bought into it’s premise though, Boyle and his excellent cast sold it well to me. I’ve read criticisms where people think that this is two thirds a great movie and that it falls a part for them in the third act. I’ve avoided reading why it falls apart, but I think I’ve got a good idea why now after seeing the film. The third act, featuring the discovery of Icarus I also has another event that I think is the one that’s hard for some to swallow, and yet I think there’s enough of a set-up there that it certainly rang true for me. It all builds to nice, if somewhat ambiguous, ending that I think again is true for the type of films that Boyle makes and is also very much in keeping with things like the above-mentioned Solaris (and I’m talking about the Soderbergh/Clooney Solaris, not the Tartovsky original) and 2001: A Space Odyssey) Boyle even goes further in his salutes to these films, even throwing in a nice one to John Carpenter’s first film Dark Star.
He’s got a great cast at work for him here… Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis are amongst others in the cast, but I think the real standout here is Chris Evans, who we know best as playing the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies. All of the characters feel like fully developed individuals, and Evans gets a very nice character arc in the film that lets him display some acting muscles that I haven’t really seen him display before. It’s a great ensemble all around, but Evans really does do a nice job here, making me look forward to more serious acting roles from him.
I really enjoyed this, this is the type of science fiction film that really speaks to me, and I applaud Danny Boyle for doing this type of film and adding another genre to his impressive list of credits. We had four of us together on this last night, all of us genre film fans and we all came out really enjoying the film, and I know for two of us, even enjoying it more after the fact, as we talked deeper about it. Very much looking forward to owning this one on DVD and watching it again and again, this one’s up there as one of the best of the summer for me (Ratatouille is still my big favorite though), and it will certainly be one that I’ll be considering as one of the best of the year as well. Highly, highly recommended…