Sunshine is a 2007 British-American science fiction thriller film directed by Danny Boyle. The film was adapted from a screenplay written by Alex Garland about the crew of a spacecraft on a dangerous mission to the Sun. In 2057, with the Earth in peril from the dying Sun, the crew is sent on a mission to reignite the star with a nuclear bomb that has a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island. The script was based on a scientific back-story that took the characters on a psychological journey. The director cast a group of international actors for the film, and had the actors live together and learn about topics related to their roles, as a form of method acting. To have the actors realistically react to visual effects that would be implemented in post-production, the filmmakers constructed live sets to serve as cues. The ensemble cast features Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, and Chipo Chung.
The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Moving Picture Company, DNA Films, UK Film Council, and Ingenious Film Partners. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, while the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment division released the film in the video rental market. Sunshine explores physics, science and religion. Following its wide release in theatres, the film garnered several award nominations for its acting, directing, and production merits. It also won an award for Best Technical Achievement for production designer Mark Tildesley from the British Independent Film Awards. The film score was orchestrated by musician John Murphy. The soundtrack was released by the Fox Music Group label on 25 November 2008.
Previous science fiction films that Boyle cited as influences included Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 film Solaris, and Ridley Scott's 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien. Sunshine was released in the United Kingdom on 6 April 2007 and in the United States on 20 July 2007. The film took £3.2 million in the UK over twelve weeks, and in the USA it was placed no. 13 in the box office on the first weekend of its wide release. With a budget of US$40 million, it ultimately grossed US$32 million worldwide. Although the film was not considered a box office success, preceding its initial screening to the public the film was generally met with positive critical reviews. Widescreen DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film, also including the hi-definition theatrical trailer, scene selections, and director's commentary among other highlights, were released in the United States on 8 January 2008
One of the most exciting British movies this year is Danny Boyle's sci-fi epic, Sunshine, which puts the divine back into a genre that had lost its way. To film-makers, it seems, the infinite has a spiritual attraction
At a key moment in Danny Boyle's radiant new sci-fi film Sunshine, a character is asked, 'Are you an angel?' With its retina-scorching visuals, which blaze from the screen into the dark abyss of the cinema auditorium, this extraordinary epic certainly seems to burn as brightly as a host of fiery angels. Set in 2057, Sunshine follows the crew of the spaceship Icarus II as they attempt to deliver a thermonuclear payload into the heart of the sun, lending new light to our galaxy's inexorably darkening star. En route, they pick up a distress signal from their lost predecessor, Icarus I, which disappeared into the void seven years earlier. Like an interstellar Marie Celeste, the first Icarus now hangs in space like a ghost ship, seemingly without a soul in sight. But as the reason for its mission failure is gradually revealed (more psychological than scientific), the crew of Icarus II fall prey to the eternal inner demons which haunt those who fly too close to the sun.
Shot not in Hollywood but in the 3 Mills studios in London's East End, Sunshine boasts extraordinary computer graphic imagery so luminescent you feel you could get sunburn just watching the film. As a sensory experience, it's overwhelming. But perhaps more importantly, Sunshine also harks back to a time when sci-fi turned its attention not toward the hallowed teen market but toward the heavens. Although screenwriter Alex Garland has said the inspiration for the film came from 'an article projecting the future of mankind from a physics-based, atheist perspective', this ambitious British fantasy increasingly blurs the boundaries between science and religion. In this respect, it falls within a grand tradition of adult-orientated science-fiction which is haunted by the question of divinity, whether as a presence or an absence.
These ideas are familiar to director Danny Boyle, who had a traditional religious upbringing, and planned to join a seminary at the age of 14. 'I was at school in Bolton,' he remembers, 'and all set to transfer to this seminary near Wigan. Then one of the priests told me that maybe I should wait, maybe I should stay and finish my school education. Quite soon after that, I saw A Clockwork Orange, which was the first film I went to see by myself. And it just changed everything. I know it all sounds too neat, but that's what happened.' Advertisement
Boyle went on to make Trainspotting, which has been dubbed 'the Clockwork Orange of the Nineties' - a viscerally hip portrait of anarchic youth culture which became both a controversial modern film classic and a defining pop icon. Yet despite his current free-form agnosticism, Boyle's films have continued to be haunted by the detritus of his religious background, from the worldly angels of the romantic fantasy A Life Less Ordinary (which owes a debt to Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death aka Stairway to Heaven) to the solidly earthy apparitions of saints who appear to the young hero of the underrated Millions. Other Boyle hits include 28 Days Later, a Garland-scripted zombie shocker set in a terrifying post-apocalyptic Britain. Now, with Sunshine, Boyle has set his sights higher than ever before, making a film which addresses 'what happens to your mind when you meet the creator of all things in the universe'.
Sci-fi fans will see a range of familiar texts echoed in the broadstrokes outline of Sunshine, most notably Paul WS Anderson's Event Horizon, a flawed but fascinating Nineties Brit-pic in which a lost spaceship re-emerges from a black hole having been to hell and back - literally. There are also nods to John Carpenter's Seventies cult classic Dark Star, in which co-creator Dan O'Bannon plays Sgt Pinback, whose oddball moniker inspired Sunshine's most mysterious character, Pinbacker. O'Bannon went on to co-write Alien, Ridley Scott's deep space shocker to which so much modern sci-fi owes a debt, and with which Sunshine shares its use of the time-honoured 'intercepted distress signal' motif. And then of course there's my own personal favourite, the underrated sci-fi masterpiece Silent Running - Doug Trumbull's eco-warning dystopian fantasy in which the last of Earth's forests are consigned to giant geodesic domes in space, an idea that appears to have blossomed into the 'oxygen gardens' aboard the Icarus spaceship in Boyle's 21st-century adventure.
Yet the primary heavenly body around which Sunshine charts its orbit is Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a weighty and portentous work which opens with 'The Dawn of Man' and climaxes with the birth of a Star Child in what appears to be an extraterrestrial rewriting of the creationist myth. Just as God creates Adam in his own image in Genesis, so the 'aliens' of 2001 transform a dying astronaut into a perfectly formed space baby, the first of a new species which will return to earth (presumably) to herald the next age in man's cosmic evolution.
This conclusion may be obliquely expressed (I remember thinking 'what was all that about?' and having to read the novel to find out) but the mesmerising symphony of sound and vision which constitutes the film's final act clearly suggest a metaphysical encounter way beyond the realms of rational explanation. Dubbed 'the ultimate trip', Kubrick's psychedelic movie used music by the avant garde composer Gyorgy Ligeti, which Underworld's Karl Hyde admits profoundly influenced his own work on the music for Boyle's new film. 'I'd never heard anything like it,' says Hyde of Ligeti's Lux Aeterna, which sounds for all the world like choirs of alien angels ringing throughout the heavens, investing 2001's baffling denouement with undeniable overtones of religious ecstasy and unearthly transcendence.
There's a strikingly similar blend of science and theology in Sunshine, in which whizz-kid physicist Capa (played by the ethereally blue-eyed Cillian Murphy) comes face to face with his maker in the shape of a dying sun. Just as the enigmatic monoliths from 2001 act as creative gods to the earthlings, so the sun serves as both the giver of life and the source of all knowledge in Boyle's soul-searching movie.
'I tried to keep it visual,' says Boyle, 'because some of the ideas in the film are very hard to talk about. But when we were making Sunshine, which involved a lot of post-production special effects, my responsibility to the actors was to describe to them what they would be seeing. I was brought up in a religious environment, and so my natural tendency was to lapse into descriptions which were broadly creationist. I'd be saying things like: "Kneel before the source of all creation, bow down before the source of all life!" And even Alex [Garland], who is quite an aggressive atheist, has that same cultural instinct in the language that he uses.'
So too, it appears, does Sunshine's scientific consultant Dr Brian Cox, who works at Cern (the Centre for European Nuclear Research), the world's largest particle-physics laboratory. According to Boyle, Cox's work includes the pursuit of the 'Higgs boson', the missing piece in the current theory of the fundamental nature of matter which is affectionately known amongst scientists as the 'God particle'. 'Brian Cox admits that you can't really speak about these things without allowing for what some people would call a "spiritual dimension",' says Boyle. 'The question is, of course, whether that spiritual dimension is just a constraint of the language - the fact that we simply have no other vocabulary to describe such things. I think that's what Alex believes. But for me, what Capa sees at the end of the movie is definitely something beyond the rational.'
The other significant star in Sunshine's cinematic galaxy is Tarkovsky's Solaris, a sombre Russian classic which, like 2001, uses a journey into deep space to dramatise a symbolic voyage into the very soul of man. Tarkovsky and Kubrick were aware of each other's work, and their joint efforts represent the twin peaks of a neo-spiritualist brand of science-fiction cinema which reached its apotheosis in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Other contemporaneous works (which flourished in the period before Star Wars turned sci-fi into an amusement park ride) include John Boorman's bonkers Zardoz, a self-important romp with philosophical pretensions. Here, Sean Connery (in leather straps, boots, and fetching posing pouch) can be found climbing inside the mouth of the flying deity Zardoz which rules the wastelands of the earth in a godforsaken near-future. Zardoz is meant to be a marauding, all-powerful divinity but, as Connery's Zed discovers, he is nothing more than a false idol - a smoke-and-mirrors illusion like the Wizard of Oz ('Zard-Oz', geddit?). The movie was pretentious, boring, and very, very silly. But its adults-only X-rating and esoteric script spoke volumes about the grown-up aura that sci-fi had attained in the wake of 2001 and Solaris
Nor were the theosophical tendencies of the genre utterly quelled by the kidtastic assault of George Lucas and his clones. Although Star Wars and its spin-off sequels and prequels played primarily to a congregation of children and arrested adolescents, the endless ooga-booga about 'The Force' and 'The Dark Side' have since flourished into something resembling a modern religion which commands an army of merchandise-hungry disciples. I can't stand the Star Wars movies, which always seemed to me to represent a gross infantalisation of the dark hearted 'serious' sci-fi (Quatermass and the Pit, Silent Running, Soylent Green) on which I was raised. But I've heard pulpit preachers quote Yoda in their attempts to engage young people with religion, the battle between Good and Evil having been played out in the popular imagination as a war between Sith Lords and Jedi Knights.
Even Captain Kirk has dabbled in the search for God, most egregiously in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in which the Enterprise boldly goes 'through the barrier' between this world and the next. One sub-2001 light show later, and Kirk is splitting infinitives in heaven. Of course, it all turns out to be a Zardoz-style con, but not before everyone has had a chance to pontificate at great length about the meaning of paradise and the nature of the divine being. (The film was directed by William Shatner himself, which perhaps explains why God turns out to be no match for Captain Kirk.) Advertisement
Danny Boyle sensibly prefers Robert Zemeckis's 1997 film Contact, large swathes of which involve heated debate about whether a priest, a psychoanalyst or a particle physicist would be best placed to represent mankind in our first meeting with extraterrestrial life-forms. 'I was there on opening night,' says Boyle, a devoted sci-fi fan with an enthusiasm for the genre in all its forms. He was even slated to direct the third Alien sequel but backed out due to anxieties about the level of special effects and the studio's evident desire for a nuts-and-bolts, action-orientated romp.
Having completed Sunshine, however, this endlessly energetic filmmaker has no plans to revisit sci-fi, which has a habit of producing creative burn-out. 'There's a reason why many directors only make one science-fiction film,' he says.
'It's because you exhaust yourself... spiritually. I do think that I've become more spiritual working on this - you have to be open-minded. The interesting thing is that the more commercial sci-fi films, like Event Horizon or Alien, tend to go for Hell in space. But maybe its more ambitious to aim for Heaven...' Five Star Sci-Fi.
5 Reasons Why Danny Boyle’s Sunshine Is Still A Stellar Film 5 July 2013 at 07:45
Very rarely do I come across a science fiction film that actually does something outside the norm and presents itself with something entirely new and original. Danny Boyle’s 2007 classic “Sunshine” is a fine example of one of those films, succeeding by taking a simple doomsday idea and molding it into a conformity of different ideas and shrouded in moral complexities. For such a simple yet vastly in-depth film, it provides a number of profound and awesome ideas that help the film become one of the better science fiction works to grace the imaginations of audiences everywhere.
These profound and awesome scenarios help flesh out “Sunshine” so as to provide as much excitement and intensity as humanly possible in a film which revolves around a team of engineers, scientists, and doctors traveling to our dying sun to reignite it with a nuclear payload that will help create a new sun in the image of the older, dying one. Simple yet familiar, right? You’d be surprised. And surprises come aplenty, I assure you.
Out of all the great ideas that were poured into this film, I’ve narrowed the selection down to five distinct and clever reasons why it stands on its own two feet in the science fiction genre. For those that have seen the film and know of the film’s ideas and twists, these may come as no surprise. I’m sure some people weren’t as crazy about them as I was, but in a film that is based off a very simple design it sure does accomplish a lot and succeeds at capturing our attention.
For those that have not yet witnessed “Sunshine”, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS ahead, so I advise leaving this article if you haven’t experienced the film for yourself yet.
5. The Human Condition
The brilliant thing about science fiction films is that we, as the audience, get a sneak peek into the minds of individuals of humanity and discover what breaks them down and at what cost. When presented with a difficult situation where there will undoubtedly be consequences or certain death, the gates to the human mind are pulled open, like the latches of the floodgates unlocked, ready for the inevitable flood to pour out. After so much pressure, those latches eventually snap and collapse, and after that…..anything can happen.
Such is the human mind, as fragile as it can be in “Sunshine”. A central figure of the plot involves a crew of eight teammates in constant contact with one another, locked inside a ship known as the Icarus II for a number of years, on a voyage to restore the sun’s power with a massive collection of nukes and creating a new star in its place and save mankind from a dark extinction. So already, there is weight on their shoulders, as they are responsible for our continuation as a species.
With a burden of high consequence such as that, the human mind could be pulled in any number of different directions. But, to keep the crew members calm and secure, they have what is known as an Earth Room to help them remember what they are fighting for, to help keep their minds focused on the task at hand.
Now speaking off the record here, having the fate of every single human life in the palm of my hands would be, unequivocally, all that I care about. I wouldn’t sleep, eat, or make start fights with the other crew members; I would simply be glued to my chair/desk/lab, trying in every way I know to come up with the best possible solution to ease that burden off my shoulders, knowing I could save them. But the question is: would that alone put the rest of my team at risk? Would a lack of communication and going solo drive me crazy? Would it drive others crazy, giving them the impression that I went off the deep end? Or would I begin doubting myself over the course of several months or years after trying out every possible scenario, knowing I couldn’t complete my goal and save the human race?
That’s just me and what would happen if I were in Capa’s shoes. Personally, I’d probably muff up somewhere down the line and bring the apocalypse with the smallest of slip-ups.
In so many ways we see the crew of the Icarus II ask the questions to which they don’t always have the answers to. Are they the team to pull this massive exodus off? Are their calculations scientifically proven (at least in their fictional world) to deliver their payload? Can they trust one another? Better yet, if one of the teammates died saving the others from frying to death because one of the others made a slight miscalculation in shift velocity, would he/she be able to live with it? All these questions and more are presented in very dread and dark fashion to where we, as the audience, start to wonder if they can even save us and make it back in one piece.
One such teammate named Harvey goes through a dramatic change in emotion simply because he is caught in win/lose situation outside of saving the human race, to where his own life is on the line. When the crew discovers the remains of the Icarus I, the first ship to attempt the salvation of mankind, they board and find out what happened only to suffer an airlock malfunction (or so we think), trapping four of the teammates (Mace, Capa, Searle, and Harvey) on board the Icarus I. In order to successfully make it back to the Icarus II, they must jump into the outer reaches of space and land inside the docking platform of their own ship, with only one spacesuit to work with. One decides to stay behind (Searle), while the other two are wrapped in enough material to protect them from the exposure of space. Capa gets the spacesuit as he is the only one who knows how to operate the payload delivery, so Mace and Harvey take to the wrapping materials, against Harvey’s wishes.
The small but brief segment of Harvey arguing with Mace reveals to the audience how terrified this man is. After the loss of Kaneda, Harvey was promoted to Captain, so he believes he should be given the right to live since he’s in charge, not giving a care in the world that the one person who can save the human race is right in front of him. In the face of certain death, of being lost in space forever, a man can break down and suffer from his own undoing from within. It’s a powerful statement knowing that you can lose your life in such circumstances yet still be the person you are. Eventually Harvey agrees to take the material over the suit, but unfortunately suffers when they bump into the side of the Icarus II airlock, sending Harvey out in the the vacuum of space, ultimately freezing from lack of oxygen and meeting his true end by the rays of the sun.
“Sunshine” goes further than this in some scenes, but it’s Harvey’s change in character that shows that when the human mind is met with a situation in which he knows he can easily be picked off for the better part of mankind, even he would rather live than die for the sake of the mission. Like Spock always said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
4. Killer In The Midst
A very compelling yet disturbing twist found within “Sunshine” happened during the conclusion of the film’s second act, where the survivors of the Icarus II abandon the Icarus I, only to bring back with them the sole survivor of the expedition, Captain Pinbacker.
There are three elements that give this twist quality and substance. The first and most disturbing is that of Pinbacker’s initial goal at killing both crews. When Capa and his crew board the Icarus I they discover the ashes of the remaining crew by exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Mace, while on his trek to find supplies in the hope it will help the mission, finds a video pertaining to the events during the voyage of the Icarus I, with Captain Pinbacker giving a monologue on how he purposely sabotaged the Icarus I’s mission to save humanity. His purpose was because of his high faith in his religion, as he believed it was the “will of God” to have the sun burn out and us die.
That, in the end, we were all expendable to God’s work and that he, himself, would be the harbinger of God’s will. Cut to the end of the second act and we discover that Pinbacker was alive the whole time inside the Icarus I, burned from head to toe because of the sun yet still alive and kicking, and managed to sabotage the Icarus II airlock, resulting into both Harvey’s death and Searle’s choice to stay behind. Now it was Pinbacker’s turn once again to subvert the Icarus II’s mission and finish what he started, all in the name of God and true justice. So he intended on killing all the crew mates and disabling their ability to deliver the payload to its destination.
At first this twist seemed a bit too far out for me because it bordered on a cop-out plot device that I didn’t think would do the film any justice. That was until I started thinking about the longevity of the situation; of how it has strong ties with the human condition and a strong dose of religious turmoil. Which leads to the second element: the human condition of Pinbacker (relating to #5 on this list). Let us take some time to understand his plight for a second: he, like everyone else, was trapped inside a tightly contained ship for God knows how long, surrounded by other crew mates who had desires and goals of their own. He also had command over the crew and was partially responsible for the delivery of the ship’s payload into the sun.
As stated with the team of Icarus II, all that weight and pressure was squarely diverted and externalized on his shoulders and everyone else. Now he has that feeling of “what if this doesn’t work and we were meant to die all along?” After spending so many years in space with no physical contact from your own family and friends, where you’re forced to live a sheltered life inside a hulk of metal, teamed up with others who are thinking the exact same thing, somewhere down the line something is bound to snap from within. And all that pressure is what caused a disconnect within Pinbacker, sparking the initial devastation of the Icarus I mission.
The third and final element of religious turmoil drives this twist into something that falls in line with the human condition, but at the same time is something else entirely. Pinbacker, a devoted man of a religion unknown in the film, purely based the failure of the mission on the equation of it being God’s will. All the seeds of hopelessness planted firmly within the ship were finalized by Pinbacker’s ultimate choice to forcefully end the mission per his allegiance with God over his own kind. And after the Icarus II seemed to dock with Pinbacker’s ship, he quietly made his way aboard and began anew what God Himself believes was right. That by disabling the Icarus II and rendering the ship incapable of carrying out the payload delivery, he would see mission as Harbinger of Humanity’s End done.
Let’s face facts here: Pinbacker was a nut, and a sick one at that.
Adding a slasher element to “Sunshine” seemed to be a smart idea because it ties in well with how the human condition can be broke down and how a man puts his faith and the salvation of God’s will before the salvation of those he was sent to save and protect.
3. The Tense Environment
While the prospect of gliding around in spacesuits seems promising at first glance, the film goes to show that they prove to be the most dangerous gamble when trying to make repairs. But the spacesuits aren’t the only danger lurking around in “Sunshine”. In fact, the environment as a whole as an everlasting effect on how key events play out in the film.
One of the most familiar aspects of a disaster film that involves saving the world on a spaceship is that something always tends to get broken. It’s an easy way of ratcheting up the plot and tension, and puts the entirety of what’s at stake at jeopardy. “Sunshine” is has its fair share of moments, and quite early on as a matter of fact. One such event involving the use of the aforementioned spacesuits has one of the crew mates making a slight miscalculation of trajectory with their solar shield, which protects them from the intense heat of the sun. Due to this small but disastrous mistake, the shield ends up damaged and must be repaired manually. So two members of the crew, Capa and Kaneda, don the suits and travel into the outer reaches of space to risk their own lives for the better part of mankind. Things don’t go according to plan, and Kaneda meets an unfortunate fate by the flares of the sun.
Another incident involves the loss of their oxygen garden for which another crew member, Corazon, is mainly responsible for. During the damaging of the shield, the heat of the sun manages to sneak past the shield and on to the Icarus itself, laying waste to whatever it touches. They lose their communications (which they could probably live without) and their oxygen garden (which they most certainly can’t live without). This untimely event sets up a persisting danger throughout the rest of the film, where a very limited amount of oxygen is left for the crew mates to breathe. Disaster scenario 101: always have a back-up plan in case main source of oxygen is cut off.
The environment for which these people are in is all part of the grand setup behind the peril of the film. The fragility of the Icarus II makes even the slightest of touches in engineering turn it into a doomsday device. Accepting the fact that these brave men and women knew what they got themselves into requires the highest level of patience, fortitude, and mental sanity to survive. They must have also been confident enough that they could fix any situation that presented itself, labeling them as the best of the best.
But what really makes the environment an enemy of the film is the idea of containment. One major theme of the film is isolation, with each crew mate somehow being in an area that looks and feels so crammed that claustrophobia is only mere seconds away. Being locked inside a spacesuit with a limited amount of air. Walking down miniature corridors for several meters without doors or windows. Sitting inside small cubicles, sending video messages back to Earth. Even having Capa toil around with payload in this vast open area with only your echoing voice, talking to a computer that runs the ship warrants enough isolation. Even though eight crew members share the same ship still makes it somewhat lonely to be on. Take into account the amount of air they have left to breathe, and you have a linear, concealed cage where the mice have nowhere to go but slowly die off one by one.
2. The Moral Decisions
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” The famous words of Spock ring true for any scenario involving making a choice for the better part of the whole rather than for one’s self.
Thus is the way of choosing to save someone’s life in exchange for your own, sometimes multiple people. But the implications go beyond that; in the case of “Sunshine”, we have Searle who makes the decision to stay behind on the Icarus I so that Capa, Mace, and Harvey can take the chance to go back to the Icarus II. Searle was one of the more patient and unsung characters of the film, for he had a fascination with the sun and always spent time in the observation deck of the Icarus II examining the sun’s rays and brightness. So when deciding to stay behind he finds the Icarus I’s observation room and makes the ultimate decision to…..”open the blinds” so to speak, incinerating himself from the full effect of the sun. Now what made him do this exactly? One of two things: the lack of oxygen would have eventually killed him if he spent too long inside the ship investigating, so he knew the only way out was to witness the effects of the sun for a quick way out, or he wanted to experience the majesty of the sun and feel the pain that the Icarus I crew felt.
Self-sacrifice plays a pivotal role in the drama of the film, with various crew members giving their lives so that the others can move on. Kaneda and Mace, the two tragedies of the crew, gave up their lives so that the mission could prevail. Kaneda was successful in fixing the shield only because he had no other choice in the matter, so he accepted his fate and continued making repairs while the sun’s rays inched their way around the shield, burning Kaneda in the process. Seeing as how Capa was high priority for the whole mission, Kaneda ordered him back inside the Icarus, inevitably saving his life and everyone else.
Mace, after having a disillusioned Pinbacker cause considerable damage to the ship’s mainframe, dives into the coolant hold where the mainframe is housed. By doing so he was restoring power to the Icarus, allowing Capa to move forward to activate the payload. After enough dives in the coolant Mace dies, but dies a valiant hero just like Kaneda because they made the moral choice of putting their lives on the line to preserve the mission.
Morally these two men symbolize the heroics in humanity, showing that in the darkest of hours there is still a light at the end of the tunnel….even if it requires their own lives to pull the curtain hiding that light.
1. At Its Core, It’s Not About The Science
The culmination of all the heated moments and thematic themes all sum up to one huge revelation in the film: it’s not a science fiction film at heart. While I have referred to it as part of the science fiction genre (and it does have a place there), deep down that’s not what defines the film. What defines it in the end is the characters, the themes, and the systematic understanding that humanity as a whole is meant for purposes to which we alone are able to figure out. It’s essentially one giant character study; I interpret it as a clear understanding into the human mind and a character study into one’s beliefs and motives.
Let’s recap these ideas:
- A strong, underlying tension where the characters are inexplicably affected by one another and their own separate choices.
- A profound look into how the mind works under such high amounts of external pressure and dyer situations.
- Putting one’s personal beliefs and religion before the objective and mankind itself.
- A crowded, claustrophobic environment that gives off a sense of isolation and and dread, where the smallest misstep can lead to utter doom.
- When faced with impossible odds, characters that know what’s at stake will stake their own lives to preserve the continuation of the mission.
All of these elements ultimately collided with each other and merge into one cohesive narrative where science fiction takes a back seat. The scientific equations and calculations presented in the film are obviously present, but it’s purely cosmetic. What truly matters is what’s at the heart of the film: the human drama. So many complex and exciting parallels are front and center here, allowing for us as the audience to connect and relate to their plight, even if we don’t wish to be in the environment that they shared for years on end. This only proves that they, along with the crew of the Icarus I, were the humans for the job that could take on a task of such epic proportions. Their fortitude would be the only thing that stood in the way our humanity’s end, but eventually everything snapped under pressure when personal tension, doubts, beliefs, and environmental hazards brought a near-extinction of the human race.
The element of human life also plays a major role in how things play out. The gift of life, whether it be giving up your own for someone else or believing what you’re doing is for the better part of humanity and for God, takes on a serious precedence when we see most of these characters in their final moments. Kaneda gave his own life to save the crew of the Icarus I; Trey killed himself because he blamed himself for Kaneda’s death and the loss of the oxygen garden, which would subsequently kill off the crew; Searle (possibly) chose the easy way out by burning to death instead of dying a slow death by lack of oxygen, wanting to go out with a bang; Mace sacrifices his own life by exposing himself to a high concentration of coolant to ensure that Capa made it to the payload and activated the release; and Capa personally activated the payload inside the sun, witnessing his final moments as the payload created in front of him created a new sun which would glow bright to show humanity that they succeeded.
Then there’s Pinbacker, who did it all because it was God’s will to end humanity and give all their souls to Him. In his mind he believed it was the right thing, even if his methods were brutal and maniacal.
There is science fiction to be had in “Sunshine”, then there is no science fiction to be had. It comes off strong as a balancing act, balancing human drama and the themes of human life, psychology, mental conditioning, and interactiveness with one another, forming a space opera that forsakes its science fiction license and instead relies on human emotion and what drives our spirits where ever they may end up guiding us.
23 Things We Learned from Danny Boyle’s Sunshine Commentary
“Hope is pulled away from her at the most cruel moment, but that’s film-making I guess.”
Sunshine (2007) Commentator: Danny Boyle (director)
1. The opening Fox Searchlight logo is played backwards so that it ends on the sun hanging over the hills. 2. He was intrigued when Alex Garland brought him the script in part because he couldn’t think of any other sun-related movies. “I think there’s a bit in Lost in Space where they pass through the sun and go ‘phew! that was warm,’ but that’s it really.” 3. They were asked why the ship is called Icarus, and he says the original script included dialogue meant “to remind Earth and the people on the mission of their humanity and their humility.” 4. The ship’s computer is voiced by Chipo Chung (In the Loop). The casting director saw her in a play and thought she’d be perfect for the role, and they had her on-set through production so she’d feel more like a live presence. 5. They learned from NASA that a long mission like this would see the astronauts growing and making meals instead of simply using freeze-dried, pre-made pouches. 6. They were inspired by Andrew Smith’s book, Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, as its theme was the disturbance astronauts felt in being away from the Earth. 7. The idea behind the diverse crew comes from Boyle’s belief that “the economies that would be able to pay for this kind of space travel would be the Asian economies.” 8. Boyle first saw Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. Hopefully he’s seen her in Supercop by now too. 9. The three serious sci-fi films hanging over this one are 2001, Solaris, and Alien. 10. Boyle and Garland both love Apocalypse Now, and he says the inspiration is obvious in their three shared films — 28 Days Later, The Beach, and this one. 11. He had the cast live together in student accommodations in East London before production to build a group dynamic. “I think they were a bit shocked, I think they were expecting to stay in the Dorcester and in fact they were in Mile End by the canal.” 12. The script went through thirty or so drafts, and one of the earlier versions featured a “sex in the oxygen garden” sequence between Robert (Cillian Murphy) and Cassie (Rose Byrne) — but they couldn’t make it believable. Who would possibly believe that someone would have sex with Rose Byrne or Cillian Murphy? (He doesn’t explain this conclusion very well at all.) 13. Underworld and John Murphy share score duties with the former doing a pass across the entire film and writing “weird, wonderful, experimental music” and then handing it over to Murphy who wove a more classical approach throughout. 14. They originally planned to build a second Icarus set for the other ship and design it so the characters were walking on its walls and ceilings — both to acknowledge its current state and to differentiate it visually from the main ship — but they couldn’t afford the cost of construction. Instead they settled on covering the new ship’s interior with dust. 15. He thinks the four character vote scene is the best thing Garland’s ever written. 16. Some viewers apparently miss the detail that two blades are missing from the drawer which is meant to suggest that Pinbacker (Mark Strong) has taken them — one to kill Trey (Benedict Wong) and make it look like a suicide, and one to use on Robert. 17. He laughs when Corazon (Yeoh) finds the small, budding plant amid the charred garden, saying the “the guys at Fox in America couldn’t believe we offered a moment of hope like this… and then she dies so soon afterwards.” 18. Mace’s (Chris Evans) death and Robert’s realization that he’s gone prompts Boyle to say “I always thought that was a very homoerotic moment there.”
19. The scene where Robert falls down while in the suit sees him struggling to get back up, and Boyle helped Murphy’s performance — unbeknownst to the actor at the time — by having crew members pressing down on the suit. “It’s fantastic.” 20. He points out the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual reference to Icarus at the 1:33:50 mark — feathered wings are briefly visible in the golden circle before the ship explodes. 21. The end sequence set outside a snow-covered Sydney Opera House was filmed in Stockholm, Sweden. 22. The ending credits features footage from the film replayed in the hopes that viewers will keep watching and perhaps notice some of the talented crew who helped make the film. 23. Robert’s sister is played by Paloma Baeza who Boyle credits with having first introduced Murphy to him back when he was casting 28 Days Later.
"The movie came to life every time you were on the screen." Stan Lee to Chris Evans.
Not Just A Pretty Boy: Chris Evans Lights Up The Screen
Director Danny Boyle calls 'Fantastic Four' actor 'really very special.' Shawn Adler 07/13/2007
Look quickly at Chris Evans and you're bound to see him as a pretty-boy actor, one of those open faces that would seem more suited to an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog or a fraternity kegger than a nuanced drama. Look quickly at the roles he's chosen, like in "Fantastic Four" or "Not Another Teen Movie" or "The Perfect Score," and you're bound to think of him as silly and lightweight, a hotshot who, as Human Torch/ Johnny Storm, actually plays, well, the consummate hotshot.
Look quickly at Chris Evans, however, and you're bound to miss the most important thing about him — this boy can act.
"Well, he's a superb actor, and I'm not saying that just 'cause he's in my film. I think he's brilliant," director Danny Boyle said of the 26-year-old actor, whom he cast in the sci-fi epic "Sunshine." "He's a very talented guy, a thoroughbred really. He's a bit of a Mary Poppins — he can pull anything out of the bag."
"Anything," of course, isn't exactly the word that comes to mind when thinking of Evans' most popular roles (which actually are pretty much his only roles — the "Cellular" star has only appeared in 10 films). To the casual observer, his characters tend to be more similar than not — so similar, in fact, that it's tough to look at his filmography and not wonder if Evans isn't just playing some amplified version of himself.
Not so, said Boyle, who cited a lack of opportunity — not skill — for the misperceptions about Evans' talent.
"The casting director [for 'Sunshine'] said, 'You should meet this guy, he's underestimated by people.' He came in the room [and was] superb. I cast him and that was it," the director recalled. "I hope he can get stuff that shows his talent 'cause he's really very special."
For Evans, "Sunshine" was that special opportunity, a chance to show a different side of himself while simultaneously working for one of his favorite directors: "Two birds with one stone," he said (see [article id="1564535"]"Danny Boyle's Space Odyssey, By Kurt Loder"[/article]).
"At the end of the day us actors are here to make good movies — that's what I love about this business. [But] if you don't have a good director you won't have a really good movie," Evans said. "So if you've got a good director inviting you to work for him, you jump at that opportunity. And that's what Danny offered me."
Working for Boyle offered benefits beyond making a good movie, however, strengthening Evans' belief that in order to be a successful actor you have to "check your ego at the door," he said.
"A lot of times as an actor you are experimenting, you're trying things and you need an anchor. If you're trying something and you're getting off the path, you need your director to come in and reel you in. [You need to tell him,] 'I trust your internal barometer of what's good and what's bad and it's going to protect me,' " Evans revealed of his process. "Danny could have said, 'Try the next take in Spanish,' and I would have said, 'All right.' "
Johnny Storm no more (at least until producers call for a threequel), Evans will soon take that lesson into more eclectic fare, from playing the dimwitted lead in "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, to a cop alongside Forest Whitaker in James Ellroy's "The Night Watchmen" to an Iraq War veteran in "Under the Blue Sky."
It's a mix that pleases Evans, he said, smiling broadly. "I like to go see movies that are dramatic. I like to get internal when I watch films. I like to cry when I watch movies. I like being emotional," he divulged. "The truth is, I like acting, period."
In the not-too-distant future, the sun is about to smoke out. A crew is sent to re-ignite it with a nuclear bomb; when they fail, a new team sets out to finish the job. But they find that flying to the least hospitable place in the solar system and staying sane and alive is no simple matter.
The tagline of a movie very close to Danny Boyle’s heart once said, “In space, no-one can hear you scream.” Yet, for as long as there have been distant spots in the galaxy to boldly pootle around in, many have given it a bloody good go. In cinematic lore the great wide nothing will drag any manner of spook, beasty or creeping madness from its infinite corners to entice people to fruitlessly shriek their lungs into its murky vacuum — and there’s enough terror and screaming in Boyle’s latest genre-hop to make the distant neighbours at least contemplate banging a broom on the ceiling.
Boyle has never made any secret of his reverence for Ridley Scott’s Alien, and he’s clearly stuck close to his master’s teachings for his venture into the claustrophobia of spaceship living, all aggressively hissing pistons and clangy corridors stretching darkly into certain doom. But he has employed a monster not really designed for hiding in cupboards or, indeed, the dark — the sun. Using the provider of all life as our ultimate enemy — what happens when it sputters out? — is a fantastically clever idea. In fact, it’s one so clever that Boyle ultimately stumbles a little in trying to deliver a conclusion that satisfactorily lives up to his bold set-up. But that’s not to say he doesn’t offer his viewers a terrific time getting there.
Sunshine starts with rocket-like velocity. There’s no time for pre-take-off preamble or significant character work; a slight shame since the brief running time could have allowed it without seeming bloated. There are people to be slain and minds to be boggled and not a great deal of time in which to do it. After a brilliant ‘look at me, mum’ opening shot that leaves the rest of the film a great deal with which to live up, Boyle thrusts his audience immediately among the crew of the Icarus II, a fleet of recognisable, but not stratospherically famous, faces — Michelle Yeoh, the dad from Whale Rider, the Human Torch, the girl who boffed Achilles in Troy and Cillian Murphy, mad stary eyes set to Losing It — that suggest that any one of them could buy the farm once things start going awry. As they swiftly and spectacularly do.
Be warned: on entering the cinema, do not stop at the refreshment stand, nor consume any volume of liquid that cannot be held in a thimble or very small and tremulous bladder. Breaks for urination will not be an option, although frightened Y-front dampening may be unavoidable. The first hour provides absolutely zero let-up and only occasional opportunities to exhale. If someone’s not dying, they’re running, crying or just freaking out.
Events take a turn for the disastrous as soon as the crew realises that the ship they were sent to replace hasn’t disappeared at all and is in actuality sitting basking in the rays of the sun. And with little care for the fact that this type of heroism almost never ends well in sci-fi movies, they set off to rescue it. The ensuing madness makes two things very obvious: a) Danny Boyle is world-class in white-knuckle cinema, and b) there is really no such thing as a new idea in sci-fi.
If indeed the film gave you time to ponder similarities to sci-fi movies past, which it categorically does not, you might find yourself thinking, “Ooh, that’s a bit like Alien”/“I remember that from 2001”/“Gosh, how very Event Horizon”/“Lorks, that’s the spit of Solaris” (if you’re particularly pretentious). Alex Garland, whose zippy 28 Days Later script made marauding zombies seem like an almost brand-new idea, has written a script high on drama, but also high on sci-fi archetype. There’s the noble captain, obsessed with the lost ship that went before and putting the mission above all else; a cowardly second-in-command; a bit where the airlock goes wrong; lots of spinny, flashing lights and an onboard computer that sounds like a particularly patient but unhelpful Linguaphone tape. None of these should significantly spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the film, but it does beg the question of whether the relatively narrow genre of People Go Mad In Space has reached creative critical mass. Do the limitless realms of space and the human psyche paradoxically only offer a finite number of ways for people to go bonkers?
Of course, such considerations will only be made after the credits roll, because Boyle’s far too busy wringing you dry of perspiration and sensibility before that. There is now apparently no genre in which he does not excel — bar possibly romantic comedy, A Life Less Ordinary being a bit, well, rubbish. His love of Alien shines through, because he’s mastered the art of getting every last drop of spooky out of even the smallest of shadows, and turning the simple act of breathing into something to be watched through the fingers. He’s also crafted a film that is utterly breathtaking to behold.
Boyle will almost certainly be desperately unpopular with future action directors. He’s taken a budget of around $40 million and produced a film of near faultless visual gloss and shimmery sophistication, with production values that appear well outside his price range. It’s the equivalent of taking a few old toilet rolls, some fuzzy Sellotape and belly-button lint and producing the Mona Lisa. But with more flames and less enigmatic smirking. It’s impossible to see where reality ends and computer begins and, as it was our understanding that fire was one of the last great CG hurdles, we can consider that one clearly leapt.
Speaking of flames, Sunshine should be conclusive proof that Chris Evans, aka the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm/Human Torch, is on his way to astronomical action fame. Possessed of a brusque charisma and an overdose of testosterone, he’s the kind of man that will make women go weak at the knicker elastic and men tragically pretend to be him when they think nobody’s looking. Murphy, doing his heroically wimpy thing with unblinking urgency, may be as close as the film has to a lead, but it’s Evans who emerges as its star.
As the tension racks up and the bodycount mounts, it seems we could be on our way to a genre classic. But then the finale is fumbled. To tell you how would ruin the film, but in the grand tradition of sci-fi, the ending makes no particular sense. Perhaps it’s deliberately enigmatic, and it does invite a great deal of post-viewing debate, but since the tone of most that has gone before is not particularly of a 2001-alike existential nature, it’s a little jarring. The lack of scientific fact we can happily overlook (wouldn’t the ship melt that close to the sun?), but the complete disengagement with reality is less than it deserves, which means that this otherwise gripping film leaves with a quiet fizzle rather than a big bang.
Aside from a last-act blip when everything goes a little bit 'what the hell?', this is a knuckle-gnawingly tense, glorious action thriller and marks yet another genre nailed by Danny Boyle.
Traveling to the SUNSHINE with Danny Boyle and Chris Evans by Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub
Written by Steven Chupnick
Danny Boyle has taken the sci-fi space genre to a whole new level in his new film, Sunshine.
It’s one of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen – visually, it’s stunning; concept, it’s incredible. And the cast – an ensemble group who transform into astronauts and scientists trying to save the world; it includes Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, and Chris Evans.
Sunshine is about the beginning of the end of the world; the sun is dying and a team must travel to space to give a jolt to the star. Their mission is the second attempt; the first appeared to have failed. The adventure takes a turn for the worse when they run into the first ship.
The first thing Danny did to do research for to look at the sun. “I immediately started looking at it, with books and photographs; that’s what I tend to gather and spend a fortune collating them. I have a huge kind of collection, so I either resource through them or go out and buy new; and it was through that – as soon as you start to delve into it, you start to feel yourself get lost into it and that’s a good sign. Cause that’s one of the things the film is about is your mind as you try to take on board the enormity, the power, the extraordinary thing it is. If the Earth was frozen solid, and only parts of the Earth were inhabitable because of a new ice age, what would you do? So yeah, that’s how it starts.”
Coming from the world of Trainspotting and the independent world, Sunshine takes a dramatic switch for Danny. And you can tell that he took full advantage with the sets, which are absolutely amazing; but he still remained very humble after seeing the movie. “It’s so much agony making these films; you have no idea how difficult they are and the standard that you expect. And to be frank, there are certain films that have been made, sci-fi films, that don’t meet the standard; I think Sunshine meets the standard. But there are certain films that don’t meet the standard, and I’ve watched them and I think ‘that’s not good enough; that’s not good enough. I don’t quite believe that.’ But I’ve never done a genre where that critical line is so acute of ‘I don’t quite believe that.’ You have to be above that line for people to go ‘ok’ and then they judge the story; then it’s different. Do you judge the story, do you like the story, do you like the characters – that’s different. But that technical level, and to get to there, is terrifyingly difficult, really. And it’s different than a kid in a candy store; it’s absolutely dragging people by their teeth, grabbing them and forcing them to make it better every time you do it. Cause it just desiccates inside of you if you get it wrong, even slightly wrong. There’s so much latitude for a film set on Earth; there’s so many ways you can get around things – the spotlight’s really intense.”
And for the actors, the set was very intense; Chris Evans says it was Danny who really kept everything in place. “I can’t say enough about Danny; it was just an unbelievable experience. You work with good directors in the hopes that the process of filmmaking will be what you want it to be because the process is always a tricky thing. I come from a theatre background, you come from a theatre background; we showed up in London over a month before we started shooting just to rehearse and this is the way Danny works. It’s unbelievable, it’s so giving for actors; we ran lines every day like it was a play. We moved in together in the dorm rooms to get the sensation of shared space, we did SCUBA diving, we went to lectures, we saw film, we did the British Airways flight simulators. This is the back story that Danny wants his actors to have; it’s not just giving the actors a foundation to work with, but it’s getting everyone on the same page. Danny’s responsibility is to be able to communicate what he wants, just using words; there’s nothing tangible we can use and Danny has a way of getting everybody, from his actors to his crew, on the same page. By the time we started shooting, it felt like we had such a good foundation; we were all so ready to begin, and it’s such a reward, such a treat, as an actor. And Danny has such a way of speaking where he can just use one sentence, and you don’t get lost in translation.”
And with the casting, Danny looked for the best possible actors to be in his movie, and he found them. In certain instances, he found certain quirks to the actors to put into the characters. “I didn’t try to address them individually ever almost; we had individual sessions to do with their back stories. Some of them were interested in their back stories – and some of them interestingly act as their likeness. And some of them don’t want to know their back story – like Rose (Byrne) didn’t want to know her back story at all, although she had an amazing back story, she didn’t want to ever know it. So they’re interesting like that. Other than that, I tried to inspire them as a group that they would take what they wanted to being exposed to. We had three weeks of lectures, scientists explaining the physics, and me explaining what I thought about the projects – and they can take what they want from that, take what inspiration they want from that, what bits they pick up from hearing it. But they all did individual things – Cillian went off to this cern, this particle incinerator in Switzerland and came back with all these mannerisms that they had all these people. And there’s some of that in the film, he does these things with his hands, that all these mathematicians would do with their hands looking at an equation. They’re full of all these little details like that. And Chris Evans met this astronaut, which was really good for Chris, that really grounded Chris in how applied this guy was to the problem – and that’s Chris’ character. It doesn’t matter what, he doesn’t want anyone crying, whatever’s going on, he just applies himself to the problem – never mind the rest of it, just get on with this. And I love that about his character; but it would vary.”
Sunshine will blow you away with its incredible and beautiful art, acting, and story. It opens in select theaters July 27th and expands to the rest of the country in the coming weeks.