Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Strong, Chipo Chung
Written by: Alex Garland
Directed by: Danny Boyle
MPAA Rating: R for violent content and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 03/23/2007

Sunshine (2007)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Remains of the Rays

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Trainspotting (1996) was so explosive and so thoroughly alive it convinced me that director Danny Boyle would go on to save the future of cinema. Alas, it has not been so. He has jumped from genre to genre with little or no consistency or personality. His subsequent films have been messy or misguided. His 28 Days Later (2002) has a huge following, but I doubt that movie's fans would have much to say about A Life Less Ordinary (1997), The Beach (2000) or Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise (2001).

Like 28 Days Later, the new Sunshine copies from older movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, its sequel 2010, Alien and Planet of the Vampires and presents them with a new, serious weight. And like 28 Days Later, Sunshine starts promisingly. In the future, the sun is burning out. To save mankind, eight scientists and astronauts journey toward the sun to drop a special bomb and restart its fires. Capa (Cillian Murphy) is arguably their most important passenger, as he knows how to detonate the bomb. We also have Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), navigator Trey (Benedict Wong), pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne), med officer Searle (Cliff Curtis) communications officer Harvey (Troy Garity) and engineer Mace (Chris Evans). Along the way our heroes receive a distress call from a ship that previously attempted the same mission and failed. After weighing their options, they decide to investigate. Needless to say, it's the wrong choice.

Boyle presents the movie's first two-thirds with a sense of quiet mystery and expectation, and the character conflicts are mostly reasonable and logical. He and screenwriter Alex Garland cook up some interesting ideas, such as an on-board "oxygen garden" full of plants. But as the "and-then-there-were-none" motif kicks in and the ship takes on a mysterious new passenger, the film turns obtuse and pretentious. It uses deliberately hazy shots to force everything into a dreamlike state, but fails in this attempt. In essence, Boyle chooses not to embrace the sci-fi genre; he tries to rise above it as if it weren't worthy of him. This disdain ruined 28 Days Later, and it ruins Sunshine as well.

(Note: not to be confused with the deadly dull, three-hour Sunshine from 2000.) Sunshine

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