Director: Danny Boyle. Writer: Alex Garland. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh. 2007.
I saw this weeks ago but never got around to a write-up, from which you might guess it was a little disappointing. Which is a tragedy, because the reason it was disappointing is that it has so much potential. It strives to do the right thing, exploring the psychological extremes felt by a crew of eight on a year-long mission to the Sun, the fate of the world on their shoulders. Aspiring to emulate Kubrick, both thematically and visually, it alludes to humankind’s search for God, the character of Searle being driven over weeks to increase his exposure to the unfiltered ravages of the sun, until, when other characters are fried to a crisp outside the ship, he grabs the comm, frantically asking “Kaneda, what do you see? What do you see?”
But the allusions are too tenuous, too infrequent, and never followed up on. The inspirations drawn from 2001 and from 2002’s Solaris shine brightly, but Sunshine doesn’t come close to emerging from their shadow.
When things are brought to a head in the final third of the movie, it all descends into plain old slasher flick territory, utterly wasting the careful set-up of the earlier scenes. There’s an interesting use of cinematographic blur and flicker, which retain the tension by never clearly showing what the remaining crew are up against, and also to my reading, serving as a palpable visible expression of the furious, searing madness that exudes from an individual who has spent far too much time in the sun.
Once all that is done, the final, final scene contains some redemption. But it’s too little too late. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many beautiful scenes, so terribly wasted.
Update: I wish I could have put it as eloquently as this guy did.