Sunshine

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Here's my review of Sunshine, just posted in the reviews area.

Sunshine



At the risk of oversimplifying things, films can be good in two (admittedly broad) ways: by showing us something new, or by improving on things we've already seen. The former is risky, but the reward is a place in cinematic history. The latter, though perhaps not as grand, requires significant skill and execution. Because, after all, isn't it harder to enthrall people when they've already seen the kind of things you're showing them?

Sunshine, as you've probably guessed, falls into the second category. It is not a revolutionary film, but its watchlike precision is evident throughout, and it runs a clinic on what disaster films ought to be like.

The plot is straightforward, and summed up in the film's first few lines: the sun is dying. Mankind decided to fly a spaceship (ominously dubbed "Icarus") towards the sun to detonate a massive bomb to jump-start it. This effort failed, for reasons unknown, and a second ship (the Icarus II) has been sent with the same mission.

From the very first scene, director Danny Boyle makes it clear that the sun is as terrifying as it is beautiful. Boyle makes a point to establish its enormity and power from the outset, and in doing so, adds an extra layer of tension to everything which comes afterwards.

There isn't a single weak link in the cast, either. It is diverse and universally competent. And while most of them are far from unknown, there aren't any movie stars here to cast a shadow over their roles. Sunshine is also a fine example of just how far CGI has come; not because the effects in it are groundbreaking, but because such crisp, seamless effects can apparently fit in a budget of just $40 million.

The characters have significant depth, as well. Mace (played by Chris Evans) is married to the plan, and reacts to ideas and decisions almost solely on how well they are confined to mission parameters. He understands the enormity of their undertaking, and that absolutely all options must be on the table. This realization leads to a number of agonizing decisions, as Sunshine gracefully lets its characters wrestle with the possibility of having to save our humanity by sacrificing their own.

Writer Alex Garland has a field day with contrast and symbolism. There's something bitterly ironic about a sequence in which their power is shut off, leaving them without light.

There are a few odd stylistic choices that will probably look extremely dated in a decade or two (a glaring green backdrop in a small communications area, for example), but most seem to have to a purpose, and most of the technology looks entirely believable. While most science fiction films emphasize the "fiction" part, Sunshine recognizes that the best genre films strike a balance between the two.

The film introduces a few horror elements that figure into the climax, but that's hardly surprising, given that Boyle and Garland previously teamed up for 28 Days Later. Nevertheless, this is a rather violent film at times, and some of it feels out of place. A particular plot twist generates some wonderful suspense, but eventually lacks some believability, and occasionally feels shoe-horned into the proceedings.

Nevertheless, Sunshine is one of the better science fiction films of the last few years. Audiences have become numb to large-scale disaster movies, which often beat them over the head with the destruction of cities and famous landmarks. This has always been a cheap way to try to generate scope. Scope comes more naturally here, however, because everyone involved is too terrified to utter pithy one-liners. They actually behave as if the human race's survival is at stake, and their somber terror makes us believe it, too.




A system of cells interlinked
Great job! Glad you liked it!
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Yeah, it was quite a film. I almost wish I hadn't heard such great things about it first, because I think it would have really taken me by surprise, but I still enjoyed it.

I actually teared up a little near the end. I think most people can probably guess when.

I have a couple complaints other than those listed in my review, though...

WARNING: "Sunshine" spoilers below
...I was really bummed about the voiceover at the end. The moment Capa said "if you see a flash of light..." I knew that's how the film would end; back on earth, with a flash of light. I think that should have been shown without the voiceover to remind us of it. I think the audience needs to be trusted to remember that.

Also, wasn't nuts about Pinbacker. I think introducing him was great, and I liked the way he looked, but I'm not buying the superhuman strength, and I think his last appearance was rather unnecessary. The pseudo-religious angle was kind of strange, too, but I had less of a problem with that.

I'll tell you what I really loved, though: Searle becoming addicted to sunlight. When I saw his skin flaking, I was almost certain that he'd lose it at some point. But the film was even smarter than I'd given it credit for; he kept his cool (no pun intended) the whole time, and ended up giving us a point of reference for just how Pinbacker got so messed up. The implication, I think, was that Searle was starting down the same path.



A system of cells interlinked
I was a mess after I saw it, both times. The final sequences are quite moving. I was also quite moved when:

WARNING: "Sunshine" spoilers below
The crew is told that Mercury will pass into view and they all quietly sit and watch while some great drifty, spacey music plays. Also, the wall of fire that engulfs Kaneda. I was completely disarmed in such a wonderful way by the power of that scene. Chills, tears, elation... so many feelings...

"Kaneda...What do you see??? Kaneda?!? Tell me!"


That first scene is when the film really started to affect me. I was so entranced by the scene, and I just felt the film start to wash over me. The second one I listed just totally floored me. There are other scenes that smashed me, too, but those two are the most memorable for me at this point...

Man do I love this flick.



You ready? You look ready
The first time I saw it, I was emotionally stunned. Stunned so much, I couldn't feel anything. I had no tears, no profound effect. A couple hours later though, I was just ripped apart.

When I saw it the second time, I teared up at the final (and all time favorite space scene ever) scene. Third time, I had so much goose flesh and teary eyes. That last scene still rips me apart, every time. I need to see it again, soon. I rarely seen films 3 times in theaters, I've never done it 4 times before. If that isn't any indication of how brilliant I think this film is, I don't know what to tell you.
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That was an outstanding review, Yoda. I was waiting for somebody to do a review on this. I was close to doing one myself until I stumbled upon yours. Anyways, agree with about 99.9% of what you said about the film. I've only seen it once, but still can't stop thinking about it.

I liked how the film jumped from extreme radiance to brutal violence and subtly stated the subtext of faith vs science. This made me think quite a bit, specially considering that the astronauts plan was theoretical. I'm glad Boyle and Garland acknowledged this in a film that could easily have come across as more condescending than The English Patient. Yet, Boyle manages to make this film really compelling and emotional without being overtly artsy about it.

One of the biggest critisms of the film is that it burrows too heavily from the likes of 2001, Alien, Event Horizen and Solaris. Well, I was never a fan of 2001 and both Horizen and Solaris are boring films anyways. What the film tries to do is what Yodo mentions in the first paragraph of his initial post. It's definitely the latter. In fact, most films try to be the latter; however, very few succeed. Boyle's Sunshine is one of these films and the man is rapidly proving that he may be the next Stanley Kubrick what with him trying to conquer different genres.

Anyways, thanks for sharing this review, mate. Absolutely adored this film, too.

****



Not here yet Great reviw Yods I will go and see this when it gets here
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This review was extremely well written and Im glad to have been a part of it. Unfortunately, where I live, they dont play this movie...nor do they play Rescue Dawn!! it was really upsetting...sometimes living in a medium sized city has its downs and this is definately one of them. I need to find a way to see this without having to wait for it to come out on BluRay.



Yoda,

Thank you for posting such an eloquent and favorable review of "Sunshine". I just finished watching it, and am still awash with the emotions of this great film.

Sunshine was such an atmospheric experience...visually stunning, intelligent, and with a brooding tension that didn't release until the end.

4.5 stars out of 5. A must see for any science fiction fan!
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Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I have just watched this, and loved it. I'm not sure I have that much to add to Yoda's comments. But I will add myself to the list of people who recommend it



Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright
There was something that stood out for me in Yoda's review that I'm trying to track down a real article to reference, but am having a hard time finding... I read a while back that one of the ways the budget was kept down so much was that many of the effects were not done via CGI. Good old fashioned miniatures and such were used extensively, but the filming was done so well, that you can't tell where the CGI turns into the non-CGI.
Since I can't find a reference, take my comment with a grain of salt, but I'll keep looking for the article I read that interviewed Danny Boyle.
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Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
It is already out on dvd! (That's how I watched it!) I checked amazon and it is available now. Or do they have different release dates where you live? Why would they release it so much later?





It is already out on dvd! (That's how I watched it!) I checked amazon and it is available now. Or do they have different release dates where you live? Why would they release it so much later?

sunshine
That's Region 2; I'm not sure if that would play on most American-sold DVD players.

Anyway, it's pretty common to have DVDs and movies alike released on different days in different continents.



A system of cells interlinked
The film came out much earlier, theatrically, in the UK, from what I understand... It never even enjoyed a wide release here, which is a travesty, IMO.



You ready? You look ready
The film came out much earlier, theatrically, in the UK, from what I understand... It never even enjoyed a wide release here, which is a travesty, IMO.
It had to be wider than you think, because I got it where I live.

I'm going to pick it up on Blu-Ray when it hits the streets.



A system of cells interlinked
When I asked the cat at the theater when i saw it, I said:

"hey man, when will this film hit wide release?"

"Well, this IS the wide release. Somebody messed up somewhere!"

Yup, I agree. So, even though the film has a wide release date listed, it didn't actually make it to most of the theater chains, and IMO, that isn't a wide release. If you still think it was a wide release, try this:

Ask ten random people on the street if they saw the film, and I guarantee that 7 or more of them will say one of the following things:

"Sunshine? What's that?"

"Oh, Little Miss Sunshine? Ya, I loved/hated that."

"Oh, Sunshine? With Ralph Fiennes?"

You might find one person that has heard of it, or maybe even seen it. I mean damn, even The Fountain hit the Regal and AMC around here, and I thought that was WAY less accessible...

Either way...it's a damn shame, as I think we can both agree...



I'm kind of sad I don't have much I would really add to this thread, as this was one of just a few favorite new films that I've seen this year. I like having stuff to say about movies that I like. All the elements of the story and characterization were more than satisfactory, few were very deep, but I especially liked the way they work in support of the visuals (the obsessions with the sun), which truly were amazing. I remember one reviewer complaining about the blur effect that they used when "clarity was needed", I for one wouldn't question a single visual choice Boyle and his cinematographer made in this movie. I saw it twice so far, can't wait to see it again when it comes to the small screen, though I wish it were playing permanently in cinemas so I could go refresh that experience periodically.