Movie Review : Sunshine

WARNING: Spoilers present. Sunshine is an 8.5 out of 10.

Sci-Fi movies with good casting, a good story line and considerable suspense are great when you can find them. Movies like Solaris, 2010, and Event Horizon come to mind immediately, and now you can throw Sunshine into that mix.

Sunshine is huge in dimension, both visually and thematically, but it doesn’t hold back on the smaller more grisly realities of life and death aboard this microcosm of humanity that is the spaceship Icarus II. Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) directed this film, and I have to say it was not surprising even though I only made the connection after seeing Sunshine. This guy has some directorial range, and he really knows how to keep you wound up tight, threatening to throw you into a blender at any second.

The Sun is dying and our world with it. A small team of scientist venture forth in a ship the size of Manhattan, protected by a massive sun shield, in order to save the world. They are Icarus II, on a mission to inject a massive dose of nuclear material into the center of the sun in order to restart it. The first mission, Icarus I, failed for reasons unknown, and so now the Icarus II is the only hope for the human race.

Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins) plays Capa, a nerdy physicist who spends his time brooding over his baby, a comet-sized nuclear payload stored inside the massive ship. Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later) plays Cassie, Capa’s love interest. There is also Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger.. and The Mummy: Tomb of The Dragon Emperor) who plays Corazon, a dedicated botanist who plays nurse to their abundant biological systems which include a huge cavern full of life-sustaining plants.

On the way to the Sun, our ship of scientists detect a homing beacon that has been broadcasting for seven years and can only be the Icarus I. After much deliberation, the crew makes an informed decision to alter their course and rendezvous with the Icarus I if only to acquire the ship’s payload and magnify their own chances for success. During the course alteration, one of the pilots is forced to make a manual modification and subsequently causes damage to parts of the sun shield.

That’s when the fun starts.

Crew members start to drop one by one as they attempt to repair the sun shield and then go aboard the Icarus I only to find the crew turned to ashes in one of the compartments. While tethered to Icarus I, the ships somehow become ripped apart, leaving the only option of re-boarding the Icarus II to be a leap from one ship to the other – three people with only one space suit – count one more scientist down.

Adding insult to injury, they make the mistake of razing their plants in a massive fire that all but extinguishes any hope of them returning to earth.

As our depleted crew nears the sun, their mission almost over, they realize they’ll only have enough oxygen for four people. However, the computer (voiced by a very sexy Chipo Chung) says there are actually five crew members on board. The identity of the fifth member is unknown. Capa confirms the location of the fifth member and confronts him. It turns out that it is Pinbacker, the captain of the Icarus I, who is now burnt to a crisp but has somehow evolved into a higher state of human being due to his proximity to the dimensional warping of the Sun.

It would have been more interesting if the manifestation of the Pinbacker was to test the moral fiber of the team or to have some other higher stake. But it seemed this was just a crazy guy who wanted to make sure the Icarus team failed in their mission with the justification that the scientists were playing with God’s divine plan to let the Sun die. Basically, it’s like a self-righteous Freddy Kruger is suddenly injected into this stunning, highly philosophical tech film. Still, with the arrival of Pinbacker, it does ratchet up the suspense a couple of notches and shows both the perseverance and determination of the crew to succeed in their mission.

Pinbacker attempts to sabotage the ship, offing at least one crew member in the process, but Cassie and Capa make it to the massive cavern that houses the nuclear payload and fights Pinbacker there as he tries one last time to keep the Sun from blooming again.

Does Pinbacker get his wish? You’ll have to rent it to see.

This movie is beautifully rendered with images of the monstrous sun sail protecting the ship like a brilliant shield, the Icarus II against the massive background of the Sun, and huge golden space suits that make you feel claustrophobic just looking at them. This movie constantly weighs the value of one life against the value of many millions of lives and defines some of the best attributes of human nature; sacrifice, loyalty, determination and love.