I fell in love with astronomy when I was 13. It was a great passion of mine. It’s still painful for me to talk about the fact I didn’t became an astrophysicist. In any case, one’s obsession with space and astronomy makes an excellent SF fan. And when I say SF, I don’t mean on “soft” stuff such as “Star Wars”. I was more into books and movies that deal with science/realistic space, as well as philosophy (for example, “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Contact”).
Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” is none of that. And yet, it is. Not sure how to explain this. The science behind it is sketchy (though much better than appears at the first glance). The plot has a great premise but a highly questionable third act (in which a psychological drama becomes a slasher flick). A great deal of important info, be it about science, plot or philosophy is missing from the movie and can be found only in director’s commentary. These things make “Sunshine” average at best.
And yet, there’s something about this movie that is truly epic. The designs are perfect in every sense (be it technically accurate or not). But design is not what makes a movie great. Acting was solid and surprisingly realistic. The premise and the themes were quite promising (isolation, religion and science, questions about future of human kind and human nature). These things can be felt in every second of it, even at action packed sequences that have nothing to do with higher issues.
There’s something incredibly captivating about “Sunshine”. About 20 seconds into the movie, we see the space ship with this amazing sun shield and hear character Robert Capa, the physicist, say “Our purpose is to create a star within a star. Eight astronauts strapped to the back of a bomb. My bomb. Welcome to the Icarus Two.” And you’re instantly hooked.
Then fantastic first and second act follow. After that – a complete mess, almost to the point of a genre shift (and not in a good way). This is what most of the people found disappointing. This is what prevents “Sunshine” from being truly epic.
The problem is not the fact they opted for action packed finale that flirts with slasher genre. The problem is that it’s clearly not the point of the film, but they still didn’t show/explored the more important stuff. These things are there, always, but get heavily pushed to the background.
Also, what I find problematic is the fact important information about the science as well as characters is missing. The important issue of religion vs science (which somehow IS the point of the movie) is rather sketched.
Make no mistakes here: this is still a movie about human mind, about ways in which faith and science overlap and contradict each other, about forces of nature that we all depend on. No slasher/action packed third act can’t change that. But it certainly switches the focus in a bad way and doesn’t leave much room for the more important issues.
That’s being said, “Sunshine” is still a good film. I am just sorry it’s not GREAT – and it’s not like it didn’t have an opportunity for it. It could have been one of the best SF movies in history. And one of my favourite movies. I honestly don’t know what went wrong. Still, there’s something incredible, something captivating about it, and it almost makes up for the all bad things.
A note on Cillian Murphy
This guy is a fantastic actor. This might not be his best role, but I must say he was great as Robert Capa: as realistic as you can be. But “Sunshine” aside, he demonstrated his talent and versatility on many occasions, so I do believe he deserves more serious roles.
I am glad he decided against being type-cast as a creep (not that he can’t make a good one… Did you see his eyes?) but there’s more talent in him. There’s something captivating about him too, and not just his strange physical appearance (let’s face it, dude looks like a lady… but without appearing effeminate or gay. And on top of these confusing characteristics, he has a beautiful, deep, masculine voice). The guy can act. I just hope Hollywood doesn’t swallow him up.
Cute boys with PhD
On a sidenote: one thing I found amusing about “Sunshine” is the fact many people complained about actors, especially Cillian Murphy, being “too sexy to be scientists”. Are these people aware how offensive this is? Not to mention inaccurate: no matter what movies taught you, physicists and other scientists are not universally nerdy/unattractive. In fact, Capa looks, dresses and acts a lot like young physicists I know. These guys are into rock music, dress in t-shirts and jeans, and while they might be a bit on a geeky side, it’s usually in a nice way.