Starring: Cillian Murphy,
Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh, Rose
Byrne, Chris Evans. Rated R.
corners of the soul in 28 Days Later,
and the chilly, drugged-up desolation of Glasgow in Trainspotting, Danny Boyle could use a little light in his life.
There’s plenty to be found in Sunshine, his tale of space-traveling saviors on a mission to resuscitate the
failing heart of the solar system, but perhaps Boyle caught a few too many
rays. The closer he gets to the sun, the more he loses his nerve, reducing a
tense, unpredictable thriller to a needlessly bloody, pseudo-spiritual mess.
Aesthetically, the film is
at times a majestic spectacle. Bathed in flashes of searing, resplendent light,
Sunshine offers a visual feast in
the absence of substance, though screenwriter Alex Garland keeps the plot lean
and the atmosphere taut and claustrophobic until he and Boyle run out of ideas.
The earth, we learn, is
trapped in a permanent winter that threatens to extinguish mankind unless a
team of astronauts, led by a brilliantly blue-eyed physicist (Cillian Murphy),
can detonate a nuclear device near the sun’s gaseous (and suddenly lukewarm)
core. It’s a premise preposterous enough to warrant comparison with the likes
of Deep Impact, Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow, but Boyle keeps the story more or less grounded
until switching gears and unleashing an unconquerable bogeyman, complete with a
God complex, on his unsuspecting cast.
While Kubrick embraced
as a frontier of limitless possibility and a window into the souls of men,
Boyle’s vision is far less ambitious. Early on, Sunshine bears the promise of a film driven by wonder and
imagination, the urge to explore a world untouched by man, but soon its
creative energy simply flames out.
By the time the crew
Icarus II discovers, in a depressingly familiar twist, that a demented killer
has boarded their ship, Sunshine has
already collapsed into a mess of clichés borrowed not from sci-fi
standard-bearers like 2001 or
even Alien, but from lackluster
retreads like Event Horizon and Deep
It’s a stunning
disappointment, really – Boyle has always put his own twist on even the most
well-worn material, whether dealing with flesh-hungry zombies or homicidal
housemates. Not here. Sunshine is
a copout, a rare misstep for a director who, just this once, settles for
shortcuts rather than plumbing the depths of his own vivid imagination.