Directed by: Danny Boyle || Produced by: Andrew Macdonald
Written by: Alex Garland || Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh
Music by: John Murphy, Underworld || Cinematography by: Alwin H. Kuchler || Editing by: Chris Gill || Country: United Kingdom || Language: English
Running Time: 107 minutes
From acclaimed director Danny Boyle and actor Cillian Murphy, comes a science-fiction epic that has been hailed as the best in its genre since the original Alien (1979). Is it really? The short answer is a “no,” but let me explain.
The main problems in this film, by far the weakest of Boyle’s that I have seen, are the poorly written characters and the rather cheap twist that occurs 2/3 through the story. All of the characters, including Murphy, are forgettable and uninteresting. As much as the script tries, the film can’t seem to muster much personality out of any of the crew members during the film’s 107 minutes. Sure, the crew manages to portray a wide range of emotion that show they are indeed human, and not robots, but as far as memorable, deep character-writing goes, this is a ghost ship.
The aforementioned revelation that takes place in the film’s final act is also a letdown. The movie teases you with some sort of sinister force lurking just beyond the characters vision for most of the story, and when it is finally revealed, the movie’s main conflict becomes just another cliched, religious lunatic. If you were hoping for a terrifying alien threat, or an existential supernatural force, or some other creative narrative development besides just another insane person, you will be disappointed,
What saves this movie from complete failure are the amazing visuals and Cillian’s performance. Sunshine is a beautiful film to look at, and Murphy’s highbrow acting elevates this modest sci-fi flick above mediocrity. Still, it’s hard to rely on the production values too much when Sunshine remains very much a character-drive narrative, and not an experimental picture a la Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011). Don’t get me wrong, the visual effects are indeed spectacular, it’s just the lack of any compelling story or characters is too deep a void for any special FX, however spectacular, to fill.
As for Murphy’s acting in the lead role, it is indeed strong as expected (so is everyone’s, for that matter), but again, due to the lackluster screenplay, he isn’t given much to work with as a character. There can’t be much tension or drama when every character is interchangeable, and that’s the principal reason I couldn’t connect with the narrative and emotional stakes of this film. Its cast do their best, but their best wasn’t enough for me.
When all things are said and done, this movie ends up being a mere halfway-decent Alien-clone, but an entertaining one at that. I expected more from Boyle, though, as well as far stronger characterizations from screenwriter Alex Garland. The script is the cheapest part of movie-production, people, and you’re all better filmmakers than this!
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Alwin Kuchler’s impressive visuals make the haunting, dark emptiness of space come alive, but it’s mostly a bland, boring crew aboard the spaceship. The story’s big twist is so formulaic and one-note, it’s sad. This film may be Boyle’s most disappointing picture. The cult following of this forgotten picture is a phenomenon I do not understand.
— However… the film is indeed beautiful and boasts a good cast, even if the script fails them. Its visuals are some of the most memorable and identifiable in all hard science-fiction movies since the new millennium. But again, the script falls it in almost every way possible.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED
? Fun Fact: Captain America (Chris Evans) is in this movie! (Spoiler alert, he freezes to death!).
I really enjoyed the the first half of the film, but it fell apart at the end. It’s a shame that it missed the mark, because it had great potential.
I agree. I saw this back when I was first getting into Boyle (I had just recently finished ’28 Days Later’), and the latter half of this film just left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. The movie as a whole wasn’t bad by any means, but it certainly wasn’t up to Boyle’s standards, as I would later conclude.