Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sunshine (2007)

Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne
Grade: A -

*Contains spoilers*

Six astronauts set out to implant a device in the Sun so that it does not die within the next century, in this action-adventure by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle. Hearthrobs Chris Evans and Cillian Murphy play the red-blooded males of the ship, who endure many trials and tribulations on their way to the perilous light source of our solar system.

The astronauts themselves all feel the burden of responsibility and are thus presented with the moral and ethical conflicts of being, essentially, soldiers going into battle. The group, even at their most disagreeable, all seem geared towards their given goal, instilling the journey with a heightened significance. It's almost irrelevant that they have little identity singularly, because they serve to represent a decision, a stance, a mission, that reflects that of war itself. As the crew progress on their journey things become increasingly unhinged, the six confronted with decisions that create resentment and unrest. Almost as if the spaceship itself be closing in around them there is a chilling inevitability about the crew and their mission. A vicious, palpable, nauseous tension in the air.

As a visual spectacle, the sight of space, and the Sun in particular, is nothing less than breathtaking. The aesthetic treatment of the celestial body throughout the film that of respect and authority, alluding greatly to nature's awesome power. It is with this idea then, of the Sun as a living entity, a beacon, a symbol of life, that the scale of the mission becomes intensified. As the ship grows closer to the sun the inhabitants alter -- they lose their individual voice, begin to possess some form of guilt. This can be attributed to Sunshine's continual idea of God as the sun, and questions of man versus nature that threaten to, and eventually do, erupt. Do we have a right to tamper with nature for our own means? Is their mission to cheat death or prevent it?

The final act of the film has fallen under a cloud of debate, as it admittedly carries with it much melodrama. The introduction of an additional character alters the tone of the film, and leads to a crescendo of action in the last few minutes. Up until then Sunshine had been both a glorious sci-fi adventure and a psychological thriller, but at the precise moment where the feel of the picture shifts, its themes of spirituality, horror, and adventure come together to create what is an exhilarating finale. I think it's fair to say that the suddeness with which this occurs allows some of what has taken place to be diluted and dismissed, however, the film retains both its blockbuster appeal and its spiritual subtext.

The mystery 'villain' introduced to us may at first appear familiarly archetypal, but the purpose behind the presence of this person, and what they represent, adds dimension to the character -- if indeed we can refer to him as a character. The man can be seen as God (the Sun's) messenger, strengthening the sense of 'battle' between nature and artificiality, or more fascinatingly as a personified product of the group's conscience -- their internal conflicts, their engulfing dread.

So when the time finally does come to save the day it's with, at first, sombre acquiescence, and then uplifting martyrdom, that Sunshine bows out. As a whole, it stands as a patiently-built, fine piece of sci-fi cinema, and a definite visual feast upon the eyes. It forces us to view the ship and its passengers on both a grand and smaller scale, giving us a fiercely entertaining time in the process, and must be congratulated on the large sucess of its provocative spiritual voice.

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