R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Danny Boyle
scr Alex Garland
with Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Mark Strong
release UK 6.Apr.07, US 20.Jul.07
07/UK Fox 1h48
What do we do now? Evans, Sanada and Curtis

murphy byrne yeoh

Sunshine Borrowing heavily from the entire space-thriller genre, this third collaboration between Boyle and Garland (after The Beach and 28 Days Later) is at least intriguing enough to hold our attention.

At some point in the future, our star is dying. A mission to reboot the sun with a massive nuclear bomb vanished without a trace, and it takes seven years to launch Icarus II, the earth's last chance. Eight astronauts are aboard the ship, and as they progress tensions grow between them. Especially when they must decide whether to rendezvous with the drifting Icarus I. Physicist Capa (Murphy) thinks the additional payload might give their mission a better chance. But whatever happened to the first mission might jeopardise the second as well.

At the beginning, Boyle and Garland borrow heavily from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, with an isolated crew facing increasingly bad odds. Then the story shifts into Event Horizon (malevolent audio-visual flashes) and then to Armageddon (infighting and selfless heroics). Boyle accomplishes this adeptly, with impeccable effects and eye-catching flourishes. But these things never disguise the fact that the script doesn't contain even the germ of an original idea.

Absolutely everything that happens is lifted from another movie. Jumpstarting the sun is a clever McGuffin that provides lots of fabulously cool imagery (like the glittering gold spacesuits), but the narrative itself is, like all of Garland's work, a series of contrived plot points leading to an insane conclusion. The characters' acts of desperation seem like outtakes from Galaxy Quest: space-walking around the sun-shield to repair damaged panels! Diving into icy water to fix a computer! Battling fire and dust and a blurred-blistered saboteur!

Fortunately the cast is up to the challenge, adding shadings that keep us engaged with the characters. Murphy is especially solid as a slightly unhinged young man with untapped inner resolve. And he's matched nicely by Evans' hothead alpha-male, Byrne's feisty pilot, Garity's survival-obsessed second-in-command and Wong's tormented techie. Meanwhile, Yeoh, Curtis and Sanada bring serious acting skills to bear on their rather underwritten characters. All of them, plus Boyle's visual wizardry, make the film decent popcorn fare. But only if you've never seen a truly inventive outer space flick.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Mar.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Sunshine David, Kent, UK: 2/5 "The special effects were great, but I was deeply disappointed with the movie overall. It was as though bits of Alien, Deep Impact, Star Trek, Enterprise (the TV series) and The Day After Tomorrow and any other sci-fi movie you can think of had all been lumped together. Signals from a space craft which had disappeared before, the crew fighting amongst themselves, one or more crew members have to die so the oxygen will last. It's all been done before - many times. I'm a great fan of sci-fi movies but I got bored halfway through. I thought the last 10 seconds were the best (and the most original) - the frozen landscape around Sydney Harbour. Other than this, the whole thing was totally unoriginal." (23.Apr.07)

Catherine Pettersson, Sweden: 2/5 "My expectations were high: Love Cillian Murphy! Cool concept! Great movie! NOT. The first half was visually riveting and laid the groundwork for a major plot twist that, alas, never appeared. Instead the creators unleash a Nightmare on Elm Street Freddie-ish character, completely breaking the carefully established logic in the preceding action. Sigh. I'm not a script writer (although maybe I could be based on this movie!) but the ending shot of 'a brighter day' was pat, and a foregone conclusion. Sunshine left me complaining all the way to the parking lot: Where are the good writers? A sound plot could have rescued the crew of Icarus II and the audience from the lackluster fate of Sunshine." (24.Apr.07)

2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall