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Awesome: 20.51%
Worth A Look55.13%
Just Average: 12.82%
Pretty Crappy: 8.97%
Sucks: 2.56%

7 reviews, 36 user ratings

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Sunshine (2007)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Dark Side of the Sun"
4 stars

Watching Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller “Sunshine” is a lot like sitting down to watch something like “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Alien” and discovering to your horror that someone inadvertently replaced the last couple of reels with those of “Jason X.” For about the first hour of its running time, it is a thoughtful, stylish and highly impressive bit of genre filmmaking that remembers to pay as much attention to the characters and the screenplay as it does to the special effects. In the last half-hour or so, however, it inexplicably shifts gears and becomes little more than a third-rate slasher film that quickly grows tiresome and frustrating for anyone who has developed a working interest in the proceedings up to that point. While this sudden downturn in quality doesn’t quite ruin the film as a whole, it is such a jarring and unsuccessful tonal shift from the previous two-thirds that you can hardly believe at times that a film that could start off so smart could end so stupidly.

In the not-too-distant future, we learn in a terse opening narration, our sun is dying out and all life on Earth is threatened with immediate extinction. In a last-ditch effort to save mankind, scientists hatch a plan to essentially relight the sun’s pilot light with a gigantic nuclear bomb delivered via spaceship serving as the high-tech equivalent of one of those long matches. Seven years earlier, the first mission to relight the sun began but the spaceship Icarus (perhaps not the greatest name for a vehicle under the circumstances) disappeared before delivering its payload and was presumed lost. Now a second mission, dubbed Icarus II (don’t these people ever learn?) has been launched in a second and final attempt to restart the sun. The story opens as the crew of Icarus II–Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne), communications officer Harvey (Troy Garity), physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy), engineer Mace (Chris Evans), botanist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), doctor Searle (Cliff Curtis) and navigator Trey (Benedict Wong)–are nearly at their destination but are clearly beginning to feel the pressure of being cooped up together for sixteen months on a mission that will literally decide the fate of the world.

At this point, the ship receives a mysterious distress signal and when the crew investigates, they are shocked to discover that it is coming from the presumably lost Icarus I. Although Mace insists that they ignore this new distraction and proceed with the mission, Capa suggests that rendezvousing with Icarus I and boarding it might not be a bad idea after all–if the payload Icarus II carrying fails to restart the sun, they will have a second chance with the first ship’s presumably unused bomb. Trey resets the course but fails to change the positioning of the all-important heat shields and an attempt to repair the ensuing damage results in the loss of a crew members and most of the ship’s oxygen supply. Now fatally crippled and with not enough air to return all the surviving crew members to Earth, the Icarus II manages to link up with Icarus and some of the crew members board it to investigate. Inside, they find that while the ship itself appears to be in good shape (outside of the dead crew), the computer drives required to launch the bomb have been mysteriously erased in what appears to be an act of sabotage.

Up until this point in the film, roughly two-thirds of the way in, “Sunshine” is a great example of the kind of science-fiction storytelling that has become all too rare on movie screens these days–the kind that is more interested in ideas and characters than in the hardware. In the opening scenes, Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland do a good job of setting up the premise, the characters and the underlying tensions without overburdening viewers with tons of expository dialogue and as things progress, they display an equal care and attention to both the tension special-effects set-pieces (especially the ill-fated shield repair sequence) and the smaller, character-driven scenes. Although the storyline is essentially a pastiche of elements found in earlier classics of the genre, Boyle and Garland approach the material in much the same way that they did with their previous collaboration, the clever zombie/end-of-the-world homage “28 Days Later”–they pay tribute to those classics (such as “2001,” “Alien,” “Dark Star,” “Silent Running” and “Solaris,” to name just a few of the more obvious titles) with little visual nods while still coming up with enough twists of their own to prevent it from simply coming off as a knock-off.

The actors have been cannily cast in a way that also subtly ratchets up the aforementioned tension in intriguing ways–although there are some reasonably familiar faces on display (Murphy, Byrne, Evans and Yeoh), none of them are big enough names to assure us that they will survive to the final reels–and they all turn in fine, low-key work. (Even the usually-irritating Chris Evans, best known as the dopiest of the Fantastic Four, give a solid performance as the hotheaded engineer who nevertheless turns out to have had the right idea all along regarding whether or not to rendezvous with Icarus I.) On a technical level, the film is also top-notch–while the effects work may not break any new ground, they are uncommonly eye-catching (especially a lovely little sequence in which the crew silently watches Mercury float past their viewscreen) and the trippy score by John Murphy and Underworld is one of the more memorable to come along in a while.

Then comes the final third of the film, an act so misconceived that it comes very close to undoing all the strong work that went into it up to that point. I can’t really give away any details because to do so would ruin a key element of the plot. What I can tell you is that as a result of this twist, the story degenerates into a futuristic riff on the mad slasher genre in which all of the dramatic tension that has been carefully set up and developed to this point is thrown away for a series of tedious scenes in which the cast is picked off one by one by some mysterious entity. For anyone who has been engaged by the preceding acts, this last-minute shift is such a complete betrayal of what went before it that it feels as if someone took the film away from Boyle and Garland and allowed some horror hack to “improve” the finale into something wholly unrecognizable. Since I have heard nothing in the media to back up such a suggestion, I can only surmise that this is how they always planned on ending the story and I am at a loss to explain their possible motivations. Did they really think that this was the best and most ingenious way of concluding their story or did they write themselves into a corner and this was the best idea the could think of to get out of it?

To be fair, the final ten minutes of “Sunshine,” a stretch of virtuoso filmmaking style that puts virtually all the other summer blockbusters to shame, do go a way towards redeeming the rest of the conclusion but not even they can quite make up for the massive flaws in the final reels. However, the rest of the film is so strong and so sure that I still feel somewhat comfortable in recommending it as a whole despite my reservations about the conclusion. My suggestion is that you go and see it, try to block the finale from your memory and pray that Boyle shot an alternate ending that he can include on the eventual DVD and consign the one seen here to either the deleted scenes section or simple oblivion.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16024&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/20/07 00:32:09
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User Comments

12/24/14 Langano Laughable. 2 stars
5/03/11 the dork knight A bit chaotic in the third act, as mentia takes hold. I got lost. 4 stars
9/16/09 Silkworm Very atmospheric and arty - story a bit predictable 4 stars
7/13/09 Abhishek Chakraborty The users who've commented are right. The first 2/3 makes it awesome. bear with the rest 5 stars
1/13/09 Shaun Wallner Kept me on the edge of the seat! 4 stars
1/02/09 Jq Phenomenal sci-fi film. One of the best movies of the 2000s. 5 stars
10/21/08 David Hollands Borderline retarded. Boyle proves he has as much storytelling intelligence as my pet rock. 2 stars
9/03/08 Charles Tatum Familiar, but done to perfection 5 stars
8/27/08 mr.mike Agree with SJ,Chris and Ivana...unfortunately they're right. 4 stars
3/06/08 NWANKWO OK Best scientific adventure film,if the scene can happen in real life. 5 stars
2/29/08 Ivana Mann Intelligent, atmospheric chiller. Too bad the ending sucked ass...could've been perfect! 4 stars
2/01/08 Chris Fantastic film up to the last 25 minutes. 4 stars
1/26/08 SJ Great for 2/3 of movie. Falls apart after that. Too bad!!! 4 stars
1/23/08 Rick Good first 2/3. Rest was rather mundane "slasher" type movie that negated the merits of th 2 stars
1/22/08 gcc great visuals/direction.But very much like Event Horizon 4 stars
1/20/08 Brian Mckay Gorgeous and stunning Sci-Fi epic. One of the best films that nobody saw in 'O7 4 stars
1/12/08 Servo Freaking awsome, smart, suspensful and just gorgeous to look at. 4 stars
1/01/08 MickJ interesting premise, ruined by one dimensional characters and horror. 2 stars
12/09/07 aleta great movie 5 stars
12/03/07 Matt Goes off the rails with a daft subplot in the last 30 mins or so. Good, otherwise. 3 stars
11/14/07 Alice If I want to see video clips, I'll watch MTV 1 stars
10/16/07 Will Brilliant. 5 stars
10/07/07 steve newman A remarkable twist after one hour - woul dhave been better to leave same pace - still go se 4 stars
9/10/07 damalc Alien + 2001 + Altered States 4 stars
9/09/07 daveyt enjoyable, but couldn't help feeling I'd seen it all before 3 stars
9/08/07 Chris J. Truely impressive film, despite 3rd act being slightly disjointed. 5 Stars. 5 stars
8/11/07 Gary G started out verey interesting, but the last 20 minutes or so were way too confusing 3 stars
8/10/07 Eric The best sci-fi adventure in years. Fantastic movie. 5 stars
8/06/07 Private Filmmaking surpassed the story. But some impressive scenes. 4 stars
7/31/07 SciFi All the science, and none of the fiction. Ultimately many failed opportunities. 2 stars
7/30/07 Vagile A truly gorgeous film 5 stars
7/29/07 Crispin Some stumbles but it has more than enough to pull it through to the end. 5 stars
7/28/07 Elizabeth S Starts off so promisingly, but totally blows the third act. 2 stars
7/28/07 Ole Man Bourbon Event Horizon Part Deux 3 stars
7/20/07 Doug What a mess. Pretentious clap-trap AND a haunted-house slaughter. No, thanks. 1 stars
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  20-Jul-2007 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jan-2008

  05-Apr-2007 (15)

  12-Apr-2007 (M)

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Danny Boyle

Written by
  Alex Garland

  Rose Byrne
  Cliff Curtis
  Cillian Murphy
  Chris Evans
  Troy Garity
  Michelle Yeoh
  Benedict Wong

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