Sunshine (2007)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #569


Number of Views: Two
Release Date: April 6, 2007
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror
Country of Origin: United Kingdom, United States
Budget: $40,000,000
Box Office: $32,000,000
Running Time: 107 minutes
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Screenplay: Alex Garland
Special Effects: Richard Conway
Cinematography: Alwin H. Küchler
Score: John Murphy, Underworld
Editing: Chris Gill
Studio: Moving Picture Company, DNA Films, UK Film Council, Ingenious Film Partners
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Mark Strong, Paloma Baeza


Suggested Audio Candy

[1] Roy Ayers “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”

[2] John Murphy “Sunshine”

[3] John Murphy “Mercury”

[4] Underworld “Peggy Sussed”


I’ve always had mixed feelings about the sun. While I get that it is, by far, the most vital source of energy for our planet and there can be no denying that it is the most dazzling of all stars, there are a few things about the “yellow dwarf” that I’m less enamored by. For starters, I will never understand the obsession with worshiping it incessantly. Granted, a nice even tan makes us look a little less like Nosferatu, but it is taken to such preposterous extremes. Laying motionless on a beach towel for seven hours may be fine for some and, each to their own I guess, but I’d rather be patrolling said beach incognito, using my one-way shades to collect important masturbation data for later and marveling at all the unleashed titties on parade. Shameless I know, but it comes with the honesty. I just don’t get it as, chances are, I’ll come away just as bronzed as any statuettes and perform over half of my 500 daily steps in the process.


Then there’s the other reason and this one is nothing against our good friend, the sun. Unfortunately, having been a horror aficionado pretty much since my umbilical was first snipped, I’m much more intrigued by what its mortal enemy, the moon, has to say. Had David and Jack arrived at The Slaughtered Lamb at midday, then An American Werewolf in London would have been effectively a buddy movie. Meanwhile, Count Dracula would have burned up faster than an alban-haired albino on a day trip to Dubai and Freddy Krueger would have been left banking on tedious daytime television to send his victims into a state of slumber. Granted, things still wouldn’t have turned out any better for Sally Hardesty and her friends as the mask of human skin that Leatherface wore acted as a rather wondrous sun block but you get the general gist. I’m a nightcrawler, a tenebrous fiend. I’ll take the vitamins that the sun provides on a daily basis and trade them in at nightfall for some fangs and a dusty coffin anytime.


That said, I’m glad I won’t be around in 2057 unless cryogenic freezing takes off unexpectedly as, chances are, I’d be singing an altogether different tune. As the old saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”, and it appears that the sun has grown tired of showing up each day like clockwork and flashing its transparent smile. Thus, illuminating Earth is about to be struck of its to-do-list and the very real threat of perpetual solar winter looms large in its place. Of course, while mankind is neglectful by nature, we’re also pretty efficient at rallying around when crisis beckons and pretending we all give a hoot about the planet we’re steadily trashing. Thus, some of our finest scientific minds get their heads together and come up with our last fading hope, Icarus II.



Before it launches any potential suckers, I mean heroes, will be required to know just what they are getting themselves into. Best not mention the ill-fated Icarus I as you can’t make an omelette without breaking at least one egg right? However, the crew will need to be aware of how their mission will shape the entire future of humanity. No pressure guys but, should you fail to deliver that payload to its destination, we’re all toast. The payload in question is a gargantuan stellar bomb which will need to be shot straight into the eye of the orange star. Even then, its chances of success are only 50-50 so, should they stumble across Icarus I on their journey, swinging by and raiding its supplies may be an idea. Two 50-50 chances may not equate to 100% probability of a star named in your honor but it does provide dual whip cracks. With all other hopes exhausted, this is a one-time deal and eight suckers, sorry heroes, sign up to make save our beloved Earth.


So let’s meet and greet our crew then. First up is the ship’s captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) and a finer specimen of leadership expertise you will struggle to find anywhere in our solar system. Second in command is Harvey (Troy Garity) and communications officer for Icarus II. Then there’s engineer Mace (Chris Evans), drier than a mouthful of salted cashews on a camel ride, his military background makes him devoid of moral complexity and, therefore, crucial to ensuring that the mission always remains priority no. 1/1. All these months floating through the ocean of emptiness are bound to wreak havoc with the crew’s scruples so psychological officer Searle (Cliff Curtis) is on hand to perform any half time pep talks. Searle is also something of a sun-whore himself and the most likely to have packed a pair of Speedos in case he is afforded the chance to top up his tan en route.


Another thing deemed necessary to making sure that the crew don’t forget their roots is green, green grass and biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) possesses ten emerald fingers as well as her very own “oxygen garden” to keep things familiar and supply all necessary breathing gases. Pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne) has the somewhat mundane task of navigating any interstellar traffic after spending her wasted youth attaining high scores on Asteroids. All this time on her hands provides countless time for reflection and this makes her the most likely to burst into tears if they pass E.T. On the other hand, navigator Trey (Benedict Wong) will need his head on a constant swivel as one misguided flight path decision will have cataclysmic ramifications. It’s alright though as child genius Trey once fashioned a computer virus that brought down one-sixth of the world’s computers so, if anyone’s memory skills can be banked on, then Trey’s your man.


However, potentially the most critical pawn is physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy) as this is the dude who will be on drop kick duties when it comes to that all-important three-pointer. After watching Dr. Strangelove as an infant, Capa learned how to love the bomb and is the only one aboard who truly understands its operation. Should he fail to deliver the goods then dinosaurs may well be granted their comeback after the debris has settled and, thus, his burden is undoubtedly greatest. It is worth noting that Murphy studied William Friedkin’s Sorcerer in preparation for the role as he wished to know the magnitude of a task so thankless and I make him spot-on on that count. The Icarus may not be required to traverse any rickety rope bridges or pass felled trees on its course from A to B but something is bound to go pear-shaped right?


We join the expedition as it is nearing its critical mass as all communications with ground control have ceased and The Sun is now bearing down like Bill Cosby at a fundraiser for birth control pills. Director Danny Boyle ensures that any lost time is made up for by providing each of our eight hopefuls with numerous moments to shine and shine they bloody well do. Indeed, by around the ten-minute mark, we’ll be changing into our flip-flops and requesting that Byrne rub some cream into our shoulders. The mission is gathering momentum and the time is fast-approaching for any crucial decisions to be made. Matter of fact, here comes one now. You see, lo-and-behold, the abandoned Icarus I just so happens to be mooching around the vicinity and, one distress signal later, it’s shit or get off the pot time.



While some of the crew have their breaches down before you can say “don’t forget to flush”, others seem allergic to porcelain. In particular, single-minded Mace isn’t keen on the idea of making an unforeseen pit-stop and, after Kaneda reminds his associates that this isn’t a democracy, one hapless bastard is guaranteed the short straw. Any idea who the hapless bastard in question may be? Answers on a stamp-addressed envelope and send them to someone who has the time to check their mail every morning as Capa isn’t provided with that luxury. He has to make a decision, pretty much on the spot, and we all know how hard it is to take a dump in front of an audience. However, two shots is better than one right? Icarus I it is then and, while they’re aboard, perhaps they can get to the bottom of what the hell happened to its crew and pick up any waifs and strays. Needless to say, Capa’s place on Mace’s Christmas card list consolidates at 8/8 but at least he has the cojones to make such an awkward call. Not to worry, Trey can lock in any amended co-ordinates so what’s the worst that can happen?


What do you mean it just did? Fuck a duck in a dump truck, name it Chuck, give it a pluck, and smother it in muck. He only went and dropped a bollock didn’t he? Now they’re all sixty clicks from FUBAR and it’s probably a good thing that Earth communications are on the blink. At least they have sufficient oxygen to reach the drop-off point and, on an even brighter note, Corazon’s chrysanthemums are blooming beautifully. Some you win and others you don’t, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but any bumps in the road are part and parcel of being tasked with saving civilization from imminent collapse and the best thing to do is buck up and commit all their attentions to preventing any other potential pratfall for the remainder of their pilgrimage.


So what makes Sunshine such a ray of light anyhoots? Well, unless you’ve been napping for the past few stanzas, you should be aware that, while undoubtedly a sci-fi extravaganza, Boyle’s film is also a simple tale about the human condition. Alex Garland is on screenwriting duties and, anyone who read my appraisal for his directorial debut Ex Machina, should be more than aware of the lofty regard I hold him in. He and, in turn, Boyle provide a fascinating insight into the human mind and how it functions under pressure almost too immense to fathom.


Each choice is critical and will inexplicably affect more than simply individuals and, any personal and religious stances must play second fiddle to the objective which is easier said than done. The odds are beyond unfavorable and, to crank up the pressure cooker tension further, the environment is hardly spacious and protracted isolation has a tendency to play tricks on susceptible minds.


We all like to think ourselves as pillars of goodness and willing to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good but it’s one thing knowing and entirely another showing. Garland places conundrums such as these at the very top of our agenda then throws the fate of humanity into the melting pot as an additional moral burden. Meanwhile, our cast are each as dedicated as the last and not a solitary one of them feels superfluous. I’m not about to single anyone out for shoulder rubs as any massaging is collective here and they all acquit themselves like the cause really means something. If it does then that is no accident either. With global warming and other green issues creeping up our agenda like inquisitive trouser snakes, this is some relevant shit right here and Garland has the brass balls to supply some fairly uncomfortable answers to any posers flagged as happy endings aren’t necessarily a realistic goal. This is damage limitation and Sunshine makes no odds about that. Moreover, it does so without preaching.



The revelation of the closing act has proved massively divisive as it introduces us to the horribly disfigured captain of ill-fated Icarus I, Pinbacker (Mark Strong), and has been cited to stretch the realm of possibility a tad too far. Granted, he appears to have been left out in the sun too long, and wouldn’t be out-of-place playing checkers with Sam Neill back at the Event Horizon but, if I spent several years stranded solo in conditions in intense humidity with only my only thoughts as company, chances are, I’d wanna crack a few skulls too. Besides, he has the will of God driving him on and we all know how religion will mess with your karma. It’s far from a cop-out when you dig beneath the blisters some and only equates to a minor obstruction when you apply the necessary perspective. Should he not show his charred face, then Icarus II will still be courting disaster and Capa will still be no closer to receiving his celebratory hand job from Cassie.


Speaking of love’s young dream, it was decided that love interest was surplus to requirements and I thank the solar gods for this shrewd decision. Similarly, comedy relief was stripped away as they don’t call it the ocean of emptiness for nothing and we still have Spaceballs for our interstellar shits and giggles. However, still the detractors found something to nitpick about and cited factual inaccuracy as a particular bugbear. Yeah right. Fucking tools, whatever happened to suspending disbelief? I don’t give a quarter of a flying fuck and three airborne cunnilingus pellets whether or not it would actually happen the way that Garland suggests as I learned how to separate fact from fiction the moment the Tooth Fairy failed to compensate me for three milk teeth back in 1979. Still haven’t forgotten it you slag. Come on now, Sunshine may be relevant to mankind’s real-life quandary, but it is also a slab of science fiction. Nobody gave Ripley the third degree when she awoke 57 years later, performed her morning stretches, and prepared Jones his dish of milk. Tsk and again tsk.


If I have one minor gripe about Sunshine that prevents a landslide, then it is actually a well-disguised compliment. At 107 minutes, it is a full hour too short and the reason for this is that we give so many damns about the crew of the Icarus II and wish only to hang with them a few smidgens longer. It is so damn epic, such an immense slither of scientific candy, that the end credits are about as welcome as Mel Gibson at a Bar Mitzvah and we all know nobody is saving him any brisket unless he lops off that unsightly foreskin with rusted shears. More would have been welcome and prevents Boyle’s majestic marvel from attaining the highest ground possible. That said, sci-fi movies have a tendency to underwhelm, more often than not, and that’s one emotion that I never felt once throughout. In that respect, I would say the pay-load has been delivered. Right, now for the hand jobs. Who has the factor 5000?


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Does excessive all-over sunburn constitute for grue? If so then add another mark to the Grue Factor as Pinbacker looks like he is in desperate need of some after-sun fast. There is a dash of bloodshed, some crushed getaway sticks, slit wrists, and a spot of deep space wear and tear to sate our appetites for destruction, but we care too much for the personnel to wish any great pain upon them and have bigger fish to fry, with the fate of mankind hanging precariously in the balance and all. That said, any keen gardeners may well consider Sunshine as something of a video nasty.


Read 28 Days Later Appraisal

Read Ex Machina Appraisal

Read Event Horizon Appraisal

Read Prometheus Appraisal

Read Pandorum Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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