Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I really, really really really really really want to see this movie. A lot. The flick screened with Boyle and Cillian Murphy in the house. We got two reactions, both different. The positive and less-spoiler-filled is up first and the mixed-negative spoiler-heavy review follows it up. Enjoy!
Having had the pleasure to catch a screening of Danny Boyle’s new film Sunshine, followed by a Q&A with the man himself and star of the film Cillian Murphy, I thought I’d share my 2 cents worth with you. Essentially the plot is that the sun is slowly dying and a group of scientists are on a mission to reverse this by ‘kick starting’ the sun. The film knowingly references many sci-fi films from the serious and reflective, 2001 and Aliens, to the more popcorn, Event Horizon. To give you an early idea of how much I enjoyed it I’d place it much closer to the first two films mentioned than the latter. In fact some of the scenes almost feel like updated versions of Kubrick’s film (watch out for the monoliths at the end!) As their ship (the Icarus II) gets closer to the sun they encounter Icarus I, from an earlier, failed attempt. As soon as they decide to change course and investigate things start to go wrong. Some of the most wonderful thing about the film are the visuals and sound design, this film is a treat for the senses. The CGI work is exemplary and goes a long way to establishing the sun as a character in its own right. The sound design suits the grand scale of the picture perfectly, we’re talking Oscar quality here, and Danny Boyle’s directing is at times mesmerising. The choices he makes behind the camera are inspired. He manages to infuse the screen with beauty, from the serene depictions of the ship at the beginning of the film to the extreme, jumpy, staccato, blurry and physically jarring work that comes later. It is all note perfect. The acting unfortunately is not quite so stellar. It’s not to say that there are not some fine performances but they are all overshadowed by the truly excellent visuals. Whilst Boyle does his best to balance everything out there is no denying that the visuals, don’t necessarily overpower, but are of a much higher standard that some of the acting on display. Cillian Murphy puts in a strong performance and is able to convey the internal struggle of the character very well. Both Michelle Yeoh and Hiroyuki Sanda are very good and Rose Byrne equips herself well in a part that is far too small. The other performances range from average to poor, the main problem being that the supporting actors are unable to fully portray the intellectual gravitas that such people in their position and their characters would inevitably have and that ultimately weakens the impact of the film. That’s not to say its all their own fault as the characters on the periphery are very one sided and stereotypical not leaving the cast a great deal to work with. Though it is not long before in true sci-fi style they meet untimely demises. The closer the crew travel to the sun the more their obsession with its power takes control to the point where it takes on almost mythical proportions and the film poses some metaphysical questions. A hugely enjoyable if not totally original film Sunshine would not exist if it were not for those that have gone before it. Boyle has borrowed from the best sci-fi of the last 40 years and brought it bang up to date. I personally can’t wait to watch it again! If you use this then call me Rustmonster.
Beware of spoilers! Here's review #2!!!
I really wanted to like this film but the film was never good enough to let me do that. The film was screened at the National Film Theatre and was sponsored by Fox Searchlight and The Guardian Newspaper. Watch out for spoilers in this review… The Film 50 years from now the sun is dying. The world gets together and financed the worlds top minds to fly off to the sun with “a bomb the size of Manhattan” (no pun to Fatman and Littleboy intended) and restart the sun. And this isn’t the first attempt. 7 years earlier another ship was sent on the same mission and failed. Not that we see any of this. The film opens with our hero’s in space on route to the sun. There is no real sense of time in the film. Aside from the last 30 minutes where there is race against time, I was never sure how far away we were from the sun or where in the journey they were. As they pass the planet Mercury they see the first spaceship. Despite the only character on the film that I liked played by Chris Evans saying they have to focus on the mission at hand, the crew decide to abandon all logic and common sense and risk the future of our planet and everything else we know so to “have a look” and thereby kickstart the now generic plot… after that of course, things go wrong… I take Sci Fi very seriously. I love the genre and opportunity it presents to show new worlds and tell stories. I was so hoping for an intelligent and adult sci fi film and I didn’t get it, even though then filmmakers wanted to give me that. As soon as they go to investigate the other ship I felt they had thrown away the intelligence I was hoping the film would carry. THE SCRIPT Who the fuck will call a spaceship charged with saving humanity “Icarus.” And as the first Icarus vanishes and the mission a failure – who would call the new ship “Icarus 2.” Don’t they know what happens if you fly to close to the sun? After the Icarus 2 finds the Icarus 1 it all turns very silly. Despite some serious posturing from the characters and some serious pseudo science the whole thing ends up being as formulaic as an episode of Murder She Wrote. There is fascinating subplot about being closer to the Sun and seeing God. However none of this develops beyond the ranting’s of the “bad guy” in the final 10 minutes. And that’s the problem. With the pedigree of talent involved in the film and the legacy of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, the film ends up taking predictable story choices and ends up being a generic Mad Man on a spaceship. Kinda like Event Horizon without the Event. MASSIVE SPOLIER Sunshine repeats the end of 28 Days Later with Cillians Murphy’s character single handily saving the day and fending off mad men all while cut to music. In fact the music cue is almost identical. END OF SPOILER WHAT I LIKED I loved the design. I visited the set at Three Mills several times during filming and fell in love with the sets. Years ago I visited the set of Event Horizon and fell in love with the design. I felt the same way about this. (wait until you see the big Fred Claus set) The spaceship was very logical. Very real science and every button “did something.” I liked Chris Evans character. If this was a focus group I would say this was the only character I identified with. I liked the photography, especially the excellent miniature work and pyro scenes. I’ve never seen work this slick from Danny Boyle and Alwin Kuchler. I LOVED the VFX. With the exception of a few dodgy spacewalking shots, the effects were excellent. Way beyond a low budget and had a clarity I was not expecting. Standout shots include the final shots of Cillian Murphy “touching” the sun and the destruction of the greenhouse. In fact the final “touching the sun” shots are quite simply jaw dropping. MPC should be proud to have them on their reel. The Music was good and typical of Danny Boyle. However several times it was used to obviously to jar the audience from one emotion to another via different music cue’s. The Sound Design was great. I loved the sound of the spaceship and the sounds of airlocks and doors etc. I am real sucker for this kind of stuff. I guess with the protracted post schedule they had this allowed for a really good sound edit and the mix itself was excellent. It all seemed very “big budget” and very unlike a British film where we tend to underbudget and under resource the sound post process. THE Q+A The Q+A began with a clip of the opening titles from Trainspotting. In those 90 seconds I saw more passion, energy and talent than I did in Sunshine. It kinda galvanised my opinion of Sunshine as the missed opportunity it was. Danny Boyle talked eloquently about working at the biggest budget he could and still retain his own casting choices and script. He mentioned the writing process of the script over a year where they completed 35 drafts. After seeing the film, 35 drafts were not enough. I wanted to ask a question at the Q+A but didn’t feel that compelled. Andrew Macdonald was seated about 4 meters from me and none of my questions I had in mind were that positive. Danny Boyle directed some second unit shots “of zombies running around” for 28 Weeks Later which is coming out in May. He also said the film is really, really violent. Personally, I loved Intacto and I love the desperation and simple beauty of the shot in the trailer of Robert Carlisle being chased by zombies in a field. If the script is good then we may be for a real treat. Danny talked about the complexity of the VFX process and how he “overcut” the film to compensate for lack of shots during the editing stage. Perhaps a better producer and better editor would have guided him through this process. However I also believe that the real battle in post production was with the script and the corners it left the filmmakers in. What else… Cillian Murphy is short. Really short. he also doesn't say much and didn't look too comfortable with the process. Sadly, I think it will struggle to find an audience. It’s a tough one to market and I don’t know how much awareness there is or will be of the film outside of filmgeek circles. If it is marketed as an action sci fi film it will alienate the multiplex crowd who wont be familiar with the films agenda. I wish I had better things to say, but I don’t. It’s not a terrible film, its just I wanted it to be so much better. After seeing the sets during production and hearing so much about it I just had higher hopes. I would love to have seen Michael Winterbottom direct this film. Probably not the best way to end this review, but it confirms my opinion that Winterbottom is the best British director we have at the moment. If you use this review, please call me Tracy Emins Left Tit.