Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Danny Boyle

Sunshine poster  
It's 2057, and the sun is dying. Following the failure of the first Icarus mission and the disappearance of its crew, the Icarus 2 is approaching the sun. This spaceship carries a payload intended to re-ignite the sun, thereby saving everyone and everything on Earth from certain extinction.

With a premise like this, it's clear that Sunshine isn't going to pander to anything as highbrow as faintly realistic science. And since it's so obviously unlikely the film dispenses with the trouble of explaining anything at all about the background to this disaster, or exactly how the payload is meant to help matters, and it dives straight into the action.

Eight crew members populate the Icarus 2, and at the start of the film they're eighteen months into their journey. Living on a spaceship for that length of time is sending them all a bit stir-crazy and giving the psych officer Searle (Cliff Curtis) plenty to occupy himself with. Searle himself seems a bit strange, preoccupied with notions of bathing in sunlight for its calming properties.

Their important but otherwise smooth journey changes abruptly for the worse when the crew make a discovery on the approach to the sun. Do they change course and risk jeopardising the mission, or carry on as before in spite of what they have found out? At this point Sunshine shows its true colours: the sci-fi plot is nothing but a peg to hang a horror story on, with a touch of disaster movie thrown in for good measure. In the tense, claustrophobic environment of the space station the crew are engaged in a race against time to save the world, if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

This film is certainly suspenseful, if a touch arty in places, using subliminal-style flashes and odd pauses in some scenes. Moreover, there's ample opportunity for characters to engage in noble acts of self-sacrifice. It has to be said that this aspect is overdone.

It's hard to believe, but Sunshine actually had the assistance of a scientific advisor from CERN involved in its creation. In the DVD extras he explains how the science had to play second fiddle to the dramatic elements in this movie. As is often the case, the movie's makers underestimate the intelligence of any adult moviegoers with at least a smattering of an interest in science. It doesn't take someone with a specialised science education to know that the sun isn't due to burn out in the next century, or to realise that their proposed method for re-igniting it is simply absurd.

Judged as science fantasy, however, Sunshine comes off only a little better. It is well paced and the acting is convincing. But it's a derivative story, basically another version of Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street set in space. Sunshine is just a little dull and predictable.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson