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Review #237, Movie #308

Year Of Release

Danny Boyle

Andrew MacDonald

Alex Garland

Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh and Mark Strong

Notes And Trivia
Alex Garland and Danny Boyle had worked together before on The Beach and 28 Days Later… Boyle at the time was interested in making a different film though but was taken aback by Garland’s script and got Andrew MacDonald involved.

20th Century Fox however were dubious as the script was, in their minds, similar to the Solaris remake. The Solaris remake bombed at the Box Office too, which put more doubt in the minds of the Fox big-knobs.
Garland and Boyle then spent an entire year rewriting the script and eventually got backing from Fox Searchlight Pictures… bit the backing was totally based on the past working relationship between Garland and Boyle. FSP then gave total creative control to Garland and Boyle, trusting them with $40m.

With the movie being based in 50 years’ time, Boyle’s casting choices were purposeful. He believed that in the future, China and America will be the leading Nations in space travel, so he cast Asian and American actors, or British actors who can do American accents.

Sunshine’s basis in reality (not just with casting but also) with science, was supervised by none other than Professor Brian Cox. Brian is famous in Britain as a television presenter of a number of Physics programs and general scientific shows.

In broader terms, Dr Cox been labelled as the new Sir Patrick Moore, and even as the Attenborough of Physics.

Cox overlooked every aspect of the science involved in the film, even doing a commentary track for the DVD explaining how some of the far-out things seen are actually scientifically accurate.
Dr Cox’s input was fundamental in keeping the movie as realistic as possible.

Dr Cox was also a key role in how the actors behaved.
Cillian Murphy especially, spent time with him in Geneva at the Large Hadron Collider, studying what Dr Cox does and how he does it, even sitting in the corner of the room while incredibly boring Physics meetings were being held.

Murphy even studied the mannerisms of the various Physicists (without them knowing at the time), including Dr Cox’s, and incorporated them into his character.

It was only once the film was released that Cox and his colleagues noticed Cillian was doing their little ticks, movements and mannerisms.

If you look closely too, the Fox Searchlight logo at the start of the movie, is actually playing backwards.


The Sun is dying. A mission called Icarus-I is sent to save the Sun, and us, by delivering an incredibly powerful bomb, and it has failed. Icarus 1 disappeared without a trace.

Icarus-II, has now been sent with a similar bomb to complete the failed mission…

But on approaching Mercury, they pick up a distress signal.


I didn’t like this movie on first watch. I get the impression a lot of people are in the same boat.
However, Sunshine is simply not a science-fiction thrash’em up full of aliens and explosions and far-out fantasy.
It’s a sombre and pretty downbeat sci-fi-sci-fact movie that, although at times is kinda boring, has great payoffs from scene to scene and a couple fantastic twists throughout the running time.
One good thing though, is the quieter scenes, or more boring stuff, doesn’t last for too long. It kinda comes in little hits before something new happens to keep the story going and keep the viewer interested.

It’s been summed up in the DVD commentary as well, that the film can be interpreted in numerous ways.
It’s not deep exactly, but there are a few ways this movie can be, well, “seen”. Is it a psychological movie or a drama? Is it sci-fi or sci-fact?

Well, it’s all of these things.

The cleverest part of this movie is also its downfall though. The reality and fact based sciences.
This film is truly one of a kind yet this can alienate some of the viewers, especially those in a mindset of wanting a sci-fi extravaganza, or maybe something like the movie called The Core.
Sunshine is a very grown up, serious, adult sci-fact movie, laced with the occasional hit of artistic licence so that the simple yet effective and affective story can keep going.

The other thing is Boyle’s use of colour. Inside, everything is grey and green, white, black and so on. It’s only outside the ship that yellows and reds are used so that the Sun and any scenes with fire are more of a shock to the viewer’s system.

The acting is, with the lower tones and scenes in the film, on a top tier when it comes to movies of this kind.
Cillian Murphy as our lead hero, is bang on form. The work he put into the character I mentioned shines (ahem) through at all times. He’s also incredibly naturalistic with it too and has a few moments of peril to get through. Cillian’s acting though, makes all the hits of action much more powerful and believeable. Cillian nails this role.

Chris Evans also makes a decent hero. He’s like the polar opposite of Murphy. The two even come to loggerheads a few times. Evans though plays it naturally as well, and comes across as a likeable and intelligent rogue on the ship. Certainly one of Evans’ best acting roles, as most people know him as the action hero these days.

Cliff Curtis also makes a memorable character within the group. He’s the Doctor and Psychologist keeping the crew sane during their trip. The introduction of his character and some of his lines of dialogue during the running time though throws the viewer. You’re never really sure exactly what going on in his mind. Is he dangerous? Or is he just a little weird? Brilliantly played by Curtis.

Hiroyuki Sanada, Rose Byrne, Troy Garity, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh play more background and supporting roles though. I wanted to see a little more of these guys but they’re just sort of, there.
Benedict Wong plays a more pivotal role though at one point and plays it extremely well, he steals the scene when certain things go bad for the crew.
Mark Strong also makes a showing in two separate parts of the film as Pinbacker. His second show in the movie though, he’s unrecognisable.

The action and FX though are on top form. The CGI throughout is incredibly simple and very well rendered. In particular the scene with Mercury going across the face of the Sun is beautiful.

The action and more highly charged cinema is held in reality too. The odd hit of artistic licence as I mentioned keeps things looking very stylised and exciting but holding most of the movie in reality and keeping the action stakes in the ballpark of “when needed” instead of just for the sake of it, makes Sunshine stand out from the crowd.

Toward the end, there’s also a sequence of highly claustrophobic action when Murphy is stuck inside one of the space suits and the choreography is brilliantly underplayed.

All in all, not what I was expecting when I first saw it, but it has grown on me over the years.

Full of intrigue and some fantastically realistic writing. The hits of peril and more fictional action and science makes it a little easier to get into, but it can be difficult to immerse yourself when the movie is so different from any other of its genre.

Worth a go if you’re after a well written space drama crossed with some genuine nerdy stuff.

My Rating: 92%