Director Danny Boyle specializes in the low-budget approach to movie making, with the English film director, producer, and screenwriter of the opinion that restriction breeds creativity. Boyles biggest budget to date was the 2000 movie The Beach ($50m), and despite being a commercial successful it was mostly panned by the critics leading to Boyle stating that he would never direct another movie with a budget that substantial.
Nevertheless, Danny Boyle later accepted another ambitious project by taking his “28 days later” star Cillian Murphy into outer space in a dark but striking film about a crew trying to stop the Sun from dying, and therefore the Earth itself. The movie Sunshine (2007) subsequently cost $40 million to make, but ultimately failed to recoup its money at the box office. But just because something is a financial failure, doesn’t mean that the movie is not worth watching does it?
Set in the year 2057, scientists Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) and Cassie (Rose Byrne) are sent on a mission to fire a colossal nuclear bomb at the Sun in order to breathe new life back into the dying star. The mission’s first ship Icarus I failed in its endeavor seven years earlier, and this time around Capa and Cassie take an eight person crew onboard Icarus II to complete the job. Unfortunately, complications occur and a dark discovery threatens to derail their plans to restart the Sun’s core, whilst also placing all their lives at risk.
The plot is definitely intriguing, and there are actually a lot of very talented actors littered about the spaceship to carry the story; such as Chris Evans, Mark Strong, Benedict Wong and Michelle Yeoh. Furthermore, the gloomy, murky atmosphere surrounding our dying sun makes a good contrast to the hope and life the crew seeks to bring to their world. It’s a dangerous assignment, but the passion and philosophy in the script produce the right amount of emotional investment and dramatic tension to really sink you into the meat of this mission.
Unfortunately, the script trips up a little at the finish line and falls into cliché horror movie territory, rather than exploring further humanity’s scientific and spiritual notions of the celestial heavens, as well as our ultimate importance or inconsequence in the universe. Although the final reveal makes an engaging twist, its inclusion does feels like a weird, unnecessary element that seems at odds with the director and the script. I get WHY it was included, and in the context of the film’s plot there is a logical sense for this kind of outcome to occur, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.
Overall, “Sunshine” was a more ambitious and expensive venture from Boyle, but one clearly suffering from poor planning in the last part of the movie. Nevertheless, the cast is great, and together with unique visuals, and a stellar music score “Sunshine” still certainly ranks as a superior type of sci-fi horror movie. It may not be Boyle’s best work, but it’s certainly no failure like the box office results incorrectly indicated.
I give “Sunshine” 2 and a ½ stars out of 4.