Sunshine (Director: Danny Boyle, UK, 2007): Last night, courtesy of the good folks at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I was able to catch the preview screening of Danny Boyle’s latest film, a sci-fi epic in the old-fashioned sense. Drawing inspiration from classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Alien, Sunshine doesn’t really chart any new ground, but it was a blast, and unlike most American sci-fi of recent years, it didn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence. We were fortunate to have the director present for a q&a after the screening (although he arrived from Chicago just in time for the end of the film) and he was refreshingly candid about the difficulties involved in making the film, as well as the very narrow thematic scope of films like this. As he put it, there is always a ship, a crew, and some sort of distress signal. Of course, it would make more sense for the crew to ignore the distress call, but they never do, and thank goodness, or else we’d be watching a pretty dull film.
As it goes, the eight-person crew of the Icarus II, en route to deliver a bomb into the heart of a dying Sun, pick up signals from the Icarus I, lost seven years before. The film functions as an effective thriller and even enters the horror realm as the crew members meet various unexpected ends. We know at the beginning that their chances of returning to Earth are slim, but it’s still affecting to watch as they send messages home. And although the character development is minimal, there is still a strong sense of caring about these people, since they represent humanity’s last hope against the unfeeling machinery of the universe.
In summary, this is not a classic in the mold of the three films it references, but it’s a great synthesis of their themes and shares the same atmosphere, which for me is a huge achievement. This is the sort of summer blockbuster I’d recommend to my own friends.
Here is the Q&A with director Danny Boyle from after the screening (apologies for the low volume, I’m trying to edit these a bit, but let me know if it’s still too low):
The film opens in Toronto on July 20.