Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sunshine (2007)

It'll probably help you know what you're getting into with Sunshine if you know that there's a commentary track on the DVD with the movie's scientific advisor Dr. Brian Cox. If that doesn't tell you all you need to know, then an anecdote Cox tells early on will. He talks about a conversation he had with director Danny Boyle where Boyle admits that if he could've made a $50 million documentary of Cox talking about the sun, he would have. But for $50 million, people want some action, so Boyle sacrificed a few scientific accuracies for a more exciting plot. I wish he would've sacrificed more.

Sunshine isn't a bad movie by any means, but it's got that slow, quiet feel like 2001 or the first part of Alien. Lots of long shots of the ship in flight and astronauts working with only the hum of the engines for soundtrack. And honestly, I'm okay with that, it's just not what I was hoping for. If it's meant to build tension, it fails, but I don't really think that's what Boyle's up to. It feels more like he's just establishing setting and showing us how lonely and isolated the astronauts are. Not because it's scarier that way, but just because it's more realistic.

Like Alien, Sunshine does pick up towards the end, but its vaguely defined threat isn't nearly as interesting as a giant, acid-bleeding, man-eating monster. And like 2001, I got the feeling that the climax was a lot more in love with itself than I was. I wish it had been more like Alien and less like 2001. But then, I've never liked 2001. (There, I've said it.)

Sunshine is a gorgeous movie and it's brilliantly acted. Cillian Murphy is fascinating to watch as always and Chris Evans does a damn fine job as a team member who puts the mission before all other considerations. When the mission is re-igniting the sun and saving all life on Earth, I can forgive him for that, but he still comes across as the buttholish villain to Murphy's wishy washy hero. That's all intentional though and it reveals the writing on Sunshine to be really smart. I liked Murphy; I agreed with Evans. It's an interesting situation to be in as a viewer and the coolest thing about the movie.

Michelle Yeoh is also awesome as the botanist in charge of maintaining the garden that supplies the ship's oxygen. Without having to explain it in dialogue you know exactly how she feels about her job, her plants, and her co-workers. Hell, everyone in the cast does a great job. Had I been more in the mood for a pensive movie about weighty subjects like duty, responsibility, heroism, obsession, and sanity, I would've liked it more. Unfortunately, I wanted a better defined threat and a less self-important ending.

Three out of five Manhattan-sized bombs.


Anonymous said...

I think he should have stuck with the "$50 million documentary" idea. 'Cause in "Sunshine," the action was nonsensical, the characters were idiots, and the science was a travesty. Next time, Danny, go with your first impulse. Not only will you end up with a more focused film, you'll have an excuse to ditch that smug rip-off artist Alex Garland, too.

Anonymous said...

Hold on: In what way is the gung-ho mission guy's volunteering of the mission's one absolutely essential guy for stupidly dangerous EVA duty "smart writing"? Garland shoehorns hazards into the story, and he does so illogically and arbitrarily. He sets his characters up to die, and he's as willing as any other bad writer would be to do anything in his (limited) power to bring those deaths about-- all so he can slot in some clumsy "philosophical" endgame schlock about duty and sacrifice. This was, honest to God, the most despicably graceless script I've ever encountered.

Michael May said...

You're right. I didn't mean to imply that the whole script was smart (and I tried to point out a couple of places where I thought it wasn't); I just really liked the moral tension I felt when considering those two characters.


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