Sunshine review

Posted: May 17, 2012 in Journalism, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

A review of the DVD release of Danny Boyle’s film Sunshine, from Death Ray 05, published in 2007. My opinion of the film has mellowed since I reviewed it initially, and I think were I to regrade it, I’d give it four stars. But the science is still silly, even though they had ubiquitous astronomy hipster Brian Cox on science consultancy duties.


2007 • 108 mins • 15

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Alex Garland

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh

A multi-national crew race to almost certain death in an effort to re-ignite the dying sun and save mankind in this UK SF effort.

It’s a clever choice from the team behind 28 Days Later to make a film that has global cooling at its heart when we’re all running around worrying about the exact opposite, and this is one of the conceits that make Sunshine a bit brighter than your average SF blockbuster. It’s a shame then that it never quite dazzles. The good bits are as shiny as 2001: A Space Odyssey, the bad bits a nasty cross between the dark side of Solaris and Event Horizon.

For a start, a lot of the film’s science is nonsensical. For example, how can a man be vaporised by sunlight millions of miles out from the star, yet a bomb made only of metal survive unscathed in a plummet through the sun’s (very, very hot) corona? The sun is also far too small throughout (in reality it’s so big that more than 98% of all matter in the Solar System is to be found within it). There are also too many incidents of unprofessionalism on the parts of the crew for the film to convince. In real life, astronauts check and triple check everything. You’d think this would be even more the case on a last-ditch mission to save mankind, but not aboard the Icarus II. And while it is conceivable that even the best of the best spacemen might go a bit nuts when under so much pressure, the Pinbacker subplot is exceedingly silly.

Still, Sunshine manages to be both atmospheric and exciting. The interplay between light and darkness in the film is beautiful, evoking a sense of wonder that is brilliantly enhanced by the haunting score. The set pieces are masterfully executed, and the finale has you inching forward on the sofa, daft though it is.

Sunshine has design and mood down perfectly, but it is nowhere near as clever as it wants to be. Perhaps that’s asking a lot, but it does set itself up as a thinking man’s film. If you want light-drenched awe, watch The Fountain instead.

Extras: The release DVD has numerous goodies, including a director’s commentary, Brian Cox commentary, an alternative ending, deleted scenes, web production diaries and a short film. But none were included on our review copy, and this may not be the final list.

Did you know?

Though it is never stated in the film, in Sunshine the sun is dying not of old age (it’s due to run out of fuel in about five billion years) but because it has been infected with an exotic particle that is disrupting its normal behaviour.


  1. Rob Sanders says:

    Totally with you on this. On the other hand, science fiction lovers have to take what they can get and by and large I find Sunshine to be a very enjoyable film. My problem with it doesn’t lay with the science. Our scientific understanding of the environmental conditions on other planets and in space seems to change regularly – so I’m fine with those kinds of details being flexible. It is science ‘fiction’ after all. My problem with the film is that it loses its genre convictions nine tenths of the way through and turns into a below-par slasher movie. It’s almost like Boyle suddenly realised that a science fiction movie wouldn’t appeal to everyone and decided to throw in a last minute rescue package.

    • guyhaley says:

      Yeah, right! It’s like “bottle” SF set aboard one spaceship just isn’t exciting enough for flick makers unless there’s some kind of insane maniac aboard. My favourite in this tiny subhenre is probably Pandorum, although even that has a maniac in it.

      As for the science, I get a little prickly about that, I admit. It’s my personal bugbear. I want my worlds as real as current knowledge can make them.

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