High-concept pitches rarely scorch this hard: eight astronauts voyaging to reignite the dying sun with a nuclear mega-bomb. Meanwhile, Earth waits in an apocalyptic big chill... But few could have expected such a remarkable spaced oddity from Brit director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland.
Even as it hoovers up dark matter from Alien, Star Trek, Event Horizon, Solaris and 2001, Sunshine emerges as much more than a genre cheat-sheet. Orbiting science, theology and metaphysical angst, Boyle’s vertiginous journey into the light plots the reverse trajectory of his favourite film, Apocalypse Now, finding time to illuminate modern fear (climate change, WMDs, suicide bombers) along the way.
Trapped between the frozen Big Nothing and their searing destination, milky scientist Cillian Murphy and hothead pilot Chris Evans take hero duties from a thinly sketched half-Asian, half- Western crew. But there’s no question: the star is the star in Boyle’s sci-fiparable. A heavenly body that spills out in blazing, gorgeous CG, it’s the molten heart of an extraordinary sensory experience, amped by ace digital sound design, with Boyle’s sense of terrified cosmic awe palpable in every scene.
Teetering on the glory of Kubrick or Tarkovsky, Sunshine instead tips over into a dramatic black hole. The climax’s baffling implosion douses Boyle’s gripping effort, but doesn’t take too much shine off a rounded package sporting two commentaries (from the director and science advisor Dr Brian Cox) plus ample web production diaries. Shine on…