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A Reader Writes In After Standing In Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE!!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.

Serious adult science-fiction is a rare thing, and any time I hear that someone’s going to be attempting it, I’m curious and I cross my fingers and hope for the best. Boyle’s one of those guys who can make real magic when he puts it all together, so here’s hoping ...


Hey Harry and Moriarty, Long time reader, first time writer. My friend brought me along to a sneak preview of 'Sunshine' in Westchester, NY earlier tonight (the 13th). This was my first time going to one of these screenings, and also my first time writing a review, so forgive me. I hadn't heard of the movie when they announced it, and IMDB says it's coming out next year. Anyway, it's directed by Danny Boyle, the same guy who did Trainspotting and last year's Millions. The cast is recognizable, but no "big name" stars, including Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne and Cliff Curtis. The guy introducing the film said the effects weren't completed yet, the audio might not match up with the dialogue, etc, etc. The story is this: the Sun is dying, so a team of scientists is sent with an enormous payload large enough to revitalize the sun, and of course, they are humankind's last chance for survival. Seven years before that, another expedition was sent, but failed (and no one knows why). Sounds like you've heard this story before? Well, you have. The story follows nearly all the same plot twists and usual screenplay contrivances that you've seen thousands of times. 'Sunshine' tries to separate itself from the crowd by introducing a philosophical concept into the mix. What's so special about the sun? What will you see when you look straight into it? The movie opens as Searle, the doctor, played excellently by Cliff Curtis (you've seen him in Three Kings and Runaway Jury) is on the observation deck of the ship looking straight at the sun... at 2% intensity. He asks the ship/computer to turn it to 4%, to which it responds that level would burn away his retina, but 3.1% would be OK for a few seconds. Naturally, he accepts and has a near moment of epiphany as the blistering light engulfs him for a few seconds. Essentially, this is what the movie is about. It's a typical 'space thriller', yes, but what it wants to be is a philosophical movie, a spiritual one. Searle, with his skin peeling away from the rays, is obsessed with finding what exactly you can see in the sun. I'll try not to give any major spoilers, but we find out that the old expedition's ship is in orbit around the sun, and they need to decide whether or not to dock with it and use their payload in addition to theirs (reasoning: the whole payload thing is theoretical, two would double the chances of it working). The captain, (Hiroyuki Sanada) gives the choice to young physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy), who decides it's worth it to stop at the ship. You can guess where the movie takes off from here: stuff goes wrong, and slowly they're all killed in various ways. I really can't go any further without giving away spoilers, but I will say the movie turns into exactly what you think it will: SPOILERS. So Chris Evans has a line as they're searching the old ship and they want to split up, "what do you think aliens are gonna pick us off one by one?"... not quite, but the sun's rays, technical difficulties, the vacuum of space, and a crazy fire guy who I think is supposed to be the captain of the old ship will. The movie is reasonable (OK, so you wouldn't live without a spacesuit in the vacuum of space, but thats forgivable) until the time the crazy fire guy shows up. He's (i think) the captain of the old ship and he's been staring at the sun for 7 straight years and he has "seen god". Of course, how he's alive, I have no idea, but his whole thing reminded me of Sam Neill in Event Horizon (not a good comparison). You've been thinking for most of the time that this movie is gonna be something more, it's gonna be 'Alien' except without the scary alien, but no. Instead, what you end up with is a crazy fire guy claiming that he looked in the sun and can't let it be destroyed so he's going to sabotage their mission and kill everyone on board. Yep... I kid you not. This part single-handedly ruined the movie for me. I was so hoping the movie would be something more than the typical fare - but in the end that's exactly what it became. SPOILERS END As far as the performances go, Cliff Curtis and Cillian Murphy were excellent, especially Cliff Curtis. Rose Byrne was cute as Cassie, though the role is largely under written. Chris Evans, playing the tough Mace, should stick to comedy; he's not bad, but the delivery of some of his lines are AWFUL ("oh, don't lecture me about our failing humanity" or something). Michelle Yeoh, as Corazon the biologist (I guess?) is underused. Hiroyuki Sanada as the captain and Benedict Wong as the trajectory guy are both pretty good, I would have liked to see even more of them. The directing is pretty good; Boyle used lots of different angles to capture life in the ship. The editing at some points seemed a little shoddy. There were some points where things where shots were flying by so quickly I had no idea what was going on. Part of that could be because the visual effects weren't finished so it's hard for the eye to catch what's going on. Also, the ending went by a little quickly and I wasn't exactly sure what happened for a second (it seemed to skip a scene), but figured it out. Overall, this movie had a lot of potential. If it stuck to the philosophical side more instead of the typical hollywood contrivances, I would have enjoyed it much more. It's enjoyable, for sure, but that final act character (if you didn't read the spoilers, don't ask) completely ruins the movie. Other than that, I only have minor quibbles (Evans' delivery, some of the physics clearly not believable, etc.). This movie aimed a lot higher than it reached. I suppose Danny Boyle had a chance to look into the sun, and what he found was a mediocre movie trying to be something more. If you decide to use this, call me "Shmouli"
Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 14, 2006, 5:47 a.m. CST

    First

    by mostdwnloadedman

    Almost a hat trick

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 5:51 a.m. CST

    Boyle

    by mostdwnloadedman

    This sounds interesting, I really liked 28 days later but I wish at the end Sandra Bullock after escaping from the soldiers and surviving her alcoholism she would have looked up and seen Nukes being dropped on England to stop the infected....seriously the first two acts of that movie were great but what a freaking nose dive

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 6 a.m. CST

    Event Horizon

    by MasterVodo

    EV was one of the better space horrors ever.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 7 a.m. CST

    Hopr This Posts

    by pammybabe

    Sounds very formulaic. Plus this will be my fourth attempt at a post. None of the others worked. Perhaps aliens are to blame for this.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 7:17 a.m. CST

    This Guy's a FUCKING idiot

    by Bill Brasky

    Your self-aggrandizing, G.E.D. level education shows through in this review. What happened? Did Boyle rape your little ass when you were 4 years old? You are the only motherfucking moron who has written anything that is less than stellar about this movie. You suck, and I hope you go straight to hell!!! (and watch Renny Harlin movies for eternity.)

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 8:05 a.m. CST

    Boyle doen't bat a hundred...

    by rbatty024

    but when he connects he hits it out of the park. I'm sure this reviewer would complain that my baseball analogy was contrived and overused Abner Doubleday speak. I have faith that Boyle can elevate genre fiction into something greater than the sum of its parts.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 8:32 a.m. CST

    Hope the reviwer is wrong...

    by brycemonkey

    He sounds pretty earnest though. And Boyle does have a problem with his 3rd Acts...

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Sunshine=Mission to Mars, Armageddon

    by XXXSkaPunk78

    I saw this film as well and it was like Mission to Mars and Armageddon..Two "WONDERFUL" sci-fi movies! Sunshine was boring & slow and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 9:32 a.m. CST

    Mission To Mars

    by Trevor Goodchild

    is one of the worst films I have seen. But that's just me. This sounds a little like Solaris. Check out the outstanding original before the remake.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 9:42 a.m. CST

    Another Take

    by King_Midas

    I was at the same screening and I have to disagree with a lot of what was said here. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It does aim high and while not perfect, I thought it mostly connected. The cast was universally excellent – I tend to be very picky about dialogue and I didn’t find a single line out of place. And the philosophical questions that arise are interesting and work pretty well. I will agree that the ending is somewhat confusing but I attributed this mostly to the very incomplete effects work (a lot of which seemed to be clustered in the last few minutes) and a few missing “bridge” scenes. Still, those are easily correctable problems and I would be shocked if it’s not tightened up for the summer release. SPOILER ALERT – as for the fire guy, he clearly WAS the captain of the first mission but he sabotaged both that mission and this one not because he didn’t want the sun to be destroyed, but because he believed the sun was dying for a reason and humans had no business saving mankind when God obviously had other plans. It’s a much more interesting and compelling reason for his actions.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Another Take

    by King_Midas

    I was at the same screening and I have to disagree with a lot of what was said here. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It does aim high and while not perfect, I thought it mostly connected. The cast was universally excellent – I tend to be very picky about dialogue and I didn’t find a single line out of place. And the philosophical questions that arise are interesting and work pretty well. I will agree that the ending is somewhat confusing but I attributed this mostly to the very incomplete effects work (a lot of which seemed to be clustered in the last few minutes) and a few missing “bridge” scenes. Still, those are easily correctable problems and I would be shocked if it’s not tightened up for the summer release. SPOILER ALERT – as for the fire guy, he clearly WAS the captain of the first mission but he sabotaged both that mission and this one not because he didn’t want the sun to be destroyed, but because he believed the sun was dying for a reason and humans had no business saving mankind when God obviously had other plans. It’s a much more interesting and compelling reason for his actions.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 11:31 a.m. CST

    This movie is not "serious adult science-fiction"

    by Doc_McCoy

    It's a silly slasher film disguised as sci-fi. I completely agree with this review.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 12:04 p.m. CST

    this doesn't sound very philosophical:

    by newc0253

    this just sounds fucking stupid. btw "What will you see when you look straight into the sun?" isn't a philosophical question. it's a straightforward factual one = an exploding ball of hydrogen and helium about a million miles in diameter, that will burn out your retinas in a matter of seconds. i didn't see Millions but i thought 28 Days Later was overrated (i liked the DV at the start but the concept quickly petered out). sounds to me like Boyle's struck out again. fuck, the most enjoyable film the guy's done is A Life Less Ordinary...

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 4:24 p.m. CST

    YB: If by serious you mean incredibly dull.

    by brycemonkey

    There are times when you are watching some scene go on and on and you can actually feel yourself aging ;-) And yes, it was pretty serious (before the Shat got into full-on scenary chewing mode). But then so was Forbidden Planet. And Plan 9...

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 4:27 p.m. CST

    I'm sorry but...

    by smackfu

    I can't believe that Danny Boyle can make a bad genre film. But maybe that's just me, because while mostly everyone took a huge steaming shit all over 28 Days Later I thought it was perfect, even the right turn it took at the military base.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Danny Boyle

    by Happyfat73

    Has two brilliant movies (Trainspotting and Millions), one good movie (28 Days Later) and one average movie (The Beach). That's quite an eclectic mix right there. The guy certainly has talent. I, personally, believe Millions is his best to date - it's refreshing to see a film without an ounce of cynicism.

  • Sept. 14, 2006, 6:42 p.m. CST

    Hang on...

    by Happyfat73

    I forgot about Shallow Grave (good) and A Life Less Ordinary (average). You've gotta admit - even when he doesn't play his "A" game, he at the very least makes ineresting films. He's definitely no hack.

  • Sept. 25, 2006, 5:01 p.m. CST

    andy patton is a fuckn

    by ethan eubanks

    andy patton is a fuckn idiot