Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, takes a look into the near future where the Earth’s star is dying and our planet is undergoing a global ice age. Unfortunately for Earth things are only going to get worse unless a plan to re-ignite the star is successful. Sunshine is an intellectual dissection of morals, instincts and the basics of human nature all couched in a sci fi landscape with a dash of old fashioned horror tossed in for good measure.
The movies impressive multi-cultural cast is made up of Cillian Murphy as Science Officer Capa. A keep his own council type, Capa is the outcast of an international space flight crew that includes Captain Kaneda, played by Hiroyuki Sanada; Life Support Officer Corazon, played by Michelle Yeoh; Navigator Trey, played by Benedict Wong; Chief Mechanic Mace, impressively portrayed by Chris Evans; Medical Officer Searle, played by Cliff Curtis and pilot Cassie, played by Rose Byrne.
The crew mans the Icarus 2, a ship designed to assist in the task of saving the world. It’s 2057 and the sun is dying. The Icarus 2 project’s goal is to kickstart the sun by precisely dropping a nuclear weapon, the size of Manhattan, into the center of the sun. It’s Earth’s last best hope after the first Icarus project failed and was never heard from again. That is until, Icarus 1’s seven year old distress signal is picked up by Icarus 2. The crew is faced with the decision of carrying on their mission or rendezvous with Icarus 1 to check for survivors and take on a second nuclear payload and thus up their chances on saving the world.
After some debating the decision is made to alter course and head for Icarus 1. Along the way Icarus 2 suffers some damage, making the rendezvous with Icarus 1 all the more important. What they find at Icarus 1 is disturbing and dangerous, putting not only their mission in jeopardy but the fate of mankind as well. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, so it’s best I don’t discuss some of the finer details.
Sunshine takes a deep and disturbing look into the effects of isolation on the human mind. It’s a great character study as we get to see how different crew members deal with the pressure and the knowledge that there’s a good chance they’ll never make it home. With a large and capable ensemble you get to watch unique human dynamics emerge. Cliff Curtis does an exceptional job as the medical officer who is drawn to the ships observation deck for stares at the surface of the sun. We don’t understand his motivations, but his musings and matter of fact approach to his insane and painful sunlight obsession are intriguing.
Overall I’m impressed. It’s a shame the film never saw a wide release in the US, but thankfully FOX Searchlight gave it a proper release on dvd and blu-ray. Boyle’s done a great job both visually and story wise. Sunshine is definitely one to rent.