Directed by: Danny Boyle
Premise: In the near future, a team of astronauts travels to the sun in order to set off a bomb that will reignite the dying star and save life on Earth. Along the way they encounter the remains of a ship from a previous mission.
What Works: The first act of Sunshine works very nicely. The film sets itself up in the style of Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey, making an adventure out of realistic space travel. The look and style of Sunshine are very striking, using unusual camera placement and some exciting imagery with the sun. The opening of the film also does some interesting things with the characters. The most interesting scenes chart psychologist Trey (Benedict Wong) and his growing obsession with the sun and the pressures that the characters face as the future of all life on earth rests on their shoulders.
What Doesn’t: In the second act, which the film takes time getting to, the story goes on an Alien-inspired riff that distracts from the immediacy of the Earth saving mission. The astronauts discover the abandoned ship from a previous mission and the film travels down a new track, borrowing liberally from Alien and Event Horizon in style and in story, although not doing either nearly as well. The conclusion of the film continues in this derivative fashion, adding Armageddon and The Core to its list of influences. Sunshine is also mired by a lack of weight. Although the characters are traveling to save the planet Earth, that is a well-worn and nebulous motivation. Like many films of this kind, Sunshine does not ground the goal of saving the Earth with some palatable cost, such as the character’s relationships with those left behind. In addition, the characters are very stock sci-fi space travelers. No one is colorful like the truckers in space of Alien, or have the haunted backgrounds of the characters in Event Horizon, or the funny and likable relationships of Armageddon. Because there is no cost associated with failure and the characters do not inspire any emotion in the audience, the rising action is very flat and leads to a conclusion that is not very involving.
Bottom Line: Although Sunshine is much smarter than the average science fiction film, even better than some of the films it imitates, it is plagued by a lack of original direction. Had the film stayed on its original course it might have led to an original adventure, but Sunshine succumbs to cliché and ends up another disposable sci-fi film.
Episode: #153 (August 19, 2007)