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SUNSHINE (Dir. Danny Boyle)

Posted: August 30th, 2007, by Alex McChesney

Question: It’s the future, and you are on a spaceship. A fire has broken out in one part of it, and threatens to spread to the rest of the ship. Do you…

A) Get the computer to open up an airlock, immediately suffocating the blaze?


B) Flood the compartment with oxygen – precious, scarce oxygen that you kind of need in order to complete your mission without dying – in order to help the fire “burn-out” quicker?

If you answered B, then you would probably be qualified to join the cew of the Icarus II on their mission to restart our dying star in Sunshine. The Earth is doomed and their mission must succeed in order to save mankind. Sadly, whoever had the responsibility of selecting the handful of men and women who would embark on this voyage apparently just chose some names out of a hat and came up with a group of dull ciphers with dubious problem solving skills. We join them sixteen months into their mission. Some bad things happen and some of the characters die. Then some more bad things happen, resulting in more deaths. And then they either succeed or fail in their mission, but you probably won’t care by then. None of the characters are remotely interesting or have inspired any sympathy, and any sense of the impending threat to mankind is limited by having us follow the ship of exposition-spouting dullards for the entire film, never once enlightening us to the actual situation back on Earth other than to briefly mention that it’s getting a bit chilly back home, until the very final scene.

Seeing a bad movie is frustrating, but not as frustrating as seeing one made by such writer/director team with such a strong pedigree. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took on the zombie movie in 28 Days Later and made it seem fresh and genuinely frightening again. Why, then, when tackling the sci-fi epic did they fail to resist an overdesigned vision of the future, and a mish-mash of half-digested cliches?

Sunshine is a movie that frustrates not because it is bad, but because it should have been so much better. There’s the kernal of a good movie in there, and the occasional effective moment that promises more than is delivered. When the crew find the “lost” spaceship that went before them, for example, and start to board it, we are treated with some genuinely unnerving single-frame images that hint at a much darker horror than the rather bland one that they encounter. Perhaps it would only have taken one more draft of the script – tightening the dialogue, creating a sense of genuine urgency, and given the characters some, well, character, to thaw out Sunshine, but we’ll never know.

Alex McChesney

Alex was brought up by a family of stupid looking monkeys after being lost in the deep jungles of Paisley. Teaching him all their secret conga skills (as well as how to throw barrels at plumbers), Alex was able to leave for the bright lights of Glasgow where adventure struck him and he needed all his conga skills to save the world and earn the hand of a lovely Texan princess. He now keeps a low profile alphabeticising his record collection and making sock monkeys in the likenesses of his long lost family.


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