short film reviews, criticism, and occasional musing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunshine (2007, UK)

There's nothing particularly innovative or deep about Danny Boyle's Sunshine, but it's still one of the best S.F. genre films I've seen in quite some time. First off, it's utterly gorgeous - someone finally forgave Boyle for The Beach, and gave him a moderately large budget with which to create an unbelievably beautiful vision of the end of the world. The cinematography and visual effects alone are worth the ticket price, but the story and script are reasonably strong as well (though it does feel at times as if Boyle and Alex Garland are throwing in everything but the kitchen sink), and the cast is nearly as pretty as the relentless image of a blown-out Sun.

Part S.F. thriller and part haunted house movie, Sunshine does get caught up in itself a bit, but not so as to distract much from the relentless forward movement of the plot. Eight scientists are en route to the Sun with a very, very large bomb, hoping to cause a mini-supernova and keep the Earth from freezing. Ludicrous, of course (and, as I've mentioned before, not unlike an outer-space version of The Core), but the perfect recipe for things going very wrong, very fast. Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans play nicely off one another as two of the strongest leads in the ensemble, with Murphy's near-girlish prettiness and Evans's machismo providing two poles between which the fate of the mission swings. Things don't get terribly much deeper than that, but with a surface as pretty as Sunshine's, who cares?

Outside of the movie itself, there's something that bemuses me about Sunshine. The movie opened in exactly two theaters in the greater Chicago area. After the general popularity and success of 28 Days Later, and the critical praise surrounding Millions, why is it so hard to see Sunshine? True, there are no really big stars in the cast, but Murphy is familiar to U.S. audiences by now, and Evans has certainly been building a fanbase over the past 3 years or so. The marketing campaign surrounding the film has been abysmal, including a full-length trailer that practically gives the entire plot away. Fox seems to be dumping what could have been a sleeper hit if it had been pushed out on a wider scale - doubtless, given the film's general critical praise and the likelihood of it building on strong word-of-mouth, Sunshine will eventually gain a wider audience, but it's a bit infuriating to see Transformers playing on 37 local screens while Sunshine is stuck on 2.


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