Review: “Sunshine”

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.

Don’t forget to vote for the next scene of the month, coming up next week!

10 thoughts on “Review: “Sunshine”

  1. I really like your movie reviews. Thanks. I am hopeful to get 2012 from Netflix this week so that I can see how the world really ends. I’ll check out Sunshine, though. I liked Drag me to Hell.

    Mango Momma


  2. I always take a couple of DVDs whenever I visit Spain. You never know when you’re going to have a spare hour or two to kill. It was there that I saw Sunshine. A man’s film, I’d say. Bloody excellent.


  3. I like this movie….inspite the fact that I’m crazily in love with Cillian. This movie is unlike moost movie about saving the earth.

    If you watch most holywood suicide mission…the ending is always the same…this one is different.

    I’ve watched it but havent had the time to review it yet


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