A few weeks ago we rented the movie “Sunshine“, in which a group of astronauts embark on a mission to fire a gigantic bomb into the sun (which is suffering from diminished output) to reignite it, and thus rescue Earth from the grip of an endless winter. (Sounds like one of Dennis‘s missions, doesn’t it?) There seems to be a lot of carping about the physics of this, as the sun isn’t scheduled to start dying for quite some time; in the back-story, which is not explained in the film, it is revealed that this is because the sun has captured a Q-Ball which is acting as a damper. I read the explanation and still don’t understand exactly what a Q-Ball is, so I’ve decided it’s something that Q uses when he’s shooting pool. But I digress.
Anyway, “Sunshine” is a very dark and moody film, except for when it’s a very, very, very bright (they are right next to the sun after all) and moody film. It’s got a lot on its mind: Cosmology, deism, utilitarianism, gardening. When things on the mission begin to go wrong, as they must, director Danny Boyle manages to keep increasing the tension without resorting to cheap thrills, action, or manufactured conflict — until about the last 20 minutes or so, when the movie goes completely off the rails. (It is making a larger point about fanaticism here, I think, but this section still elicited an “oh come on” reaction from me that I couldn’t quite get around.) Fortunately it recovers with a beautifully-constructed ending sequence that (mostly) erases the bad taste left by what immediately preceded it.
The cast of “Sunshine” is excellent, including Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis of “Whale Rider“, and Chris Evans. Yes, The Human Torch is aboard, and he steals the movie from the putative hero (Murphy) with a terrific performance as the uncompromising engineer Mace. (The next time I’m on a suicide mission in space, I want Mace as my engineer.) “Sunshine” is a gorgeous, haunting, and thoughtful film that unfortunately requires you to switch your brain off at the climax; but be sure to switch it back on again for the coda. Weeks later, I’m still thinking about it.
“Sunshine” put my wife to sleep in about 20 minutes, which is about average for an SF film that isn’t “Pitch Black” and doesn’t involve James Cameron or Peter Jackson in some fashion. When she woke up, I replayed the coda for her so she could see how it ended, because she wanted to know, even though she skipped over all the stuff in between. I guess she wanted to see if we were all going to freeze to death or not.
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