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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sunshine


Danny Boyle's "Sunshine" came out on DVD this week so naturally I had to buy a copy. Now I regret even more not going to see it on the big screen. For like many other sci-fi movies, I'm sure it would have been even more impressive on the big screen. Even on my small screen, I must say I really enjoyed "Sunshine". I know this movie is very polarizing, and I will get to that later. And I think this movie will be more successful over time than it was during its short run in theatres.

To be fair, Danny Boyle may be my favorite current director. If not, he's definitely in my top 5. And in a lot of ways I even admire more because of his versatility. It's to a lesser degree the reason I admire Kubrick so much. They are not afraid to take on different genres and really stretch themselves. And "Sunshine" was Boyle's sci-fi movie and I must say it was exceptional.

Visually, "Sunshine" is spectacular. It definitely falls in with the great space movies like "2001" and the Alien movies. And yes, it takes its cues very much from those movies. But that's only a fault if you look at the plot in a very general way. Pretty much any space movie will include a crew aboard a ship executing a mission. In "Sunshine", that mission is to travel to the sun and detonate a bomb to get the sun started again. Currently it is dying, causing constant winter on Earth. It is up to this crew of the Icarus II (yes, there was an Icarus I) to get the sun started again.

The movie slowly unfolds, as the crew members go about their jobs aboard the ship. They quickly approach the last place where they can send communications home to loved ones. In a touching scene, Cillian Murphy (one of the best actors around) records his message home. As the crew approaches Mercury, they hear a distress signal from the Icarus I. After weighing all their options, the crew decides to approach Icarus I as it may double their odds of jumpstarting the Sun if the ship could be piloted.

Most people agree the movie is very strong and compelling up to reaching Icarus I. It is at this point that opinions are strongly polarized. I come down on the side of loving the final act, even if it wasn't necessarily executed perfectly. As an aside, Danny Boyle's biggest fault is his endings. I loved "28 Days Later" and "Millions", which is a testament to those films as both had confusing and/or unsatisfying endings.

From a plot standpoint, the final act unfolds as such. Crew boards Icarus I, notices vegetation and oxygen, and ship can not be flown. Then they find the old crew, dead, praying at the sun through the observation deck. Someone causes the connection between the 2 ships to come unglued. Person has to be sacrificed to get back on ship. On ship, there is a new person. It turns out this is the captain from Icarus I, badly burned and disfigured. He looks mostly blurry - more on that later. He is trying to prevent the success of this mission, killing a crew member or two along the way. He believes he has been talking to God the 7 years he has been alone on Icarus I. He also believes it is God's will for the sun to die and in the process mankind. To succeed in the mission would go against God, which is why he is trying so hard to prevent the mission. After some struggles, Cillian Murphy unloads the payload and the bomb is detonated. At the end we see the sun shine brightly and know that they succeeded.

The issues posed in the final act are fascinating and very timely. For there are millions of believers out there who would do whatever they could to bring about the end of the world - all in the name of religion. And the struggle between the religion and science is definitely playing out in everyday life. These truly are important issues that left me thinking as I drove into work the next day.

From where I sit, I think people get confused by 2 things:

1 - The blurriness of Icarus I captain. On the web it tells me that Boyle kept him blurry because he could not actually recreate his imagination. Regardless of whether that is true, it is meaningless. Personally, I was confused for about 2 minutes. Was he a superhuman? Was he God? Then I let it go and enjoyed the movie. If you couldn't let it go, then I think you would hate the ending.

2 - The actual ending as Cillian Murphy sets off the payload. Around this point, the ship has reached a level earlier described as a place where time and gravity fold onto itself. Sure, it's confusing and weird. But how would you shoot gravity and time breaking apart? And "2001" is definitely not clear at the end. I think people get frustrated when they are not told exactly what is happening. The ending is very much left up to your imagination, as far as what is technically occurring. Some people fear that I guess.

Personally I loved the vagueness of the ending. And I thought the movie was highly effective. Now that Boyle has his science fiction movie out of his way, I'm interested to see what he tackles next.

Tags:

*movies*Sunshine *Danny Boyle *Cillian Murphy *sci-fi*religion*science *fundamentalism

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