Sunshine had a bit of buzz before arriving in theaters, at least in the sci-fi community. While it didn’t feature an all-star cast by any means (its biggest names were Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, Batman Begins and Chris Evans (Fantastic Four), the premise of the film, not to mention the cinematography of it all, was quite impressive from just a few shots in the trailer. On top of the special effects, the film also boasted a somewhat original story: the sun is dying and its (and mankinds) survival depends on the success of the mission that Icarus II and its crew is sent on.
Set in 2057, Sunshine revolves around the crew of the Icarus II, a ship carrying a massive payload that is set to explode on the surface of the sun, creating another star in of itself. While the first mission, with the Icarus I, failed, the second crew were determined to succeed for the good of mankind. Along the way the crew stumbles across the original Icarus and through a series of unfortunate events end up facing several life or death situations—both for the crew of the ship and mankind.
I was quite impressed by what Sunshine had to offer. While it’s no doubt that it is a bit on the slow side, ala Apollo 13, it doesn’t mean the tension or action is completely void throughout, but it does have a bit of a slow build throughout. In part I think that helps the film progress from the standard space tale to something akin to Alien. Y es, that’s right: Sunshine goes from Apollo 13 to Alien within a few short seconds.
This switch in tone is made possible by around the midpoint in the film when Icarus II docks with Icarus I and we are thrown into an abandoned derelict ship with no signs of life. It’s not until the crew runs into the original captain, burned flesh and all, who is driven mad by the responsibility of the mission and the impact it would have on Earth and mankind. It’s a bit of a change in tone for the film and makes you wonder if it wasn’t something they cooked up midway into filming to “spice” it up some more, but it does work in any affect. It did have a slight drain on the film towards the end, however, as you just wanted the team to succeed so badly that you were kind of annoyed by the villain’s persistent nature to live.
As stated before the cast for the film is nothing impressive, although it was nice to see Murphy in a film again (last time we saw him in a mainstream movie was Red Eye), as there’s something bout he guy that makes him a joy to watch on screen. That may just be the Batman fan in me speaking, but it’s hard to deny that he doesn’t have an on screen presence. Evans also went passed his joking role as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four and instead became more of a by-the-book marine that was focused on nothing but the greater good of the mission. The supporting cast, made up of Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Benedict Wong and others is also a solid line up, though none aside from Byrne, Murphy and Evans really stand out as most are either bit parts or have little screen time.
Without a doubt, Sunshine’s biggest advantage was the atmosphere and art direction that the film had. The play with sunlight made for a very bright and beautiful film, certainly much lighter in (color) tone than other space films of the same nature; while most of Sunshine is made up of orange and reds, there are quite a few moments of cool blue light that comes from the ships coolant or just the lighting in general. It’s an easy film to get caught up in visually and as weird as the visuals get towards the end with the Icarus I’s captain appearance and subsequent distorted vision (I took that what we were seeing on screen is what his vision now looks like after having been exposed to such high levels of sunlight) , it’s still a visually pleasing film to watch. The DVD looked great, I can only imagine what a hi-def transfer of this looks like.
Overall, Sunshine is definitely a solid and entertaining ride. It has its slow moments, but in the end it’s a very satisfying film, if a bit annoying with its eventual outcome. Regardless of your feelings towards the plot, it’s worth watching if only for the visuals—it’s definitely a different take on the sci-fi genre in more ways than one. Recommended.
Sunshine arrives in a standard DVD amaray case without a slipcover or inserts. Disc art is actually different from the cover art (it sports the sun suits that the crew wears while in space as well as a bit of the sun’s surface) and the menus for the film are simple and easy to navigate. Moving past the packaging and presentation of the menu we have a solid video and audio transfer. The video transfer shows few signs of compression and is an overall beautiful presentation, if a bit on the grainy side at times. In terms of audio the accompanying 5.1 Dolby Surround tracks more than enough of an oomph, with the room sounding like you were literally aboard the Icarus during several moments of the film (notably during the part where the ship begins to creek and moan after the metal on it begins to cool).
Moving onto the extras we are met with a pair of audio commentaries. The first is by director Danny Boyle and the second by Dr. Brian Cox of the University of Manchester. Both commentaries are quite an interesting listen, with Cox’s having the slight edge if only because he’s able to add the “educated” comments to the film. Everything about the two commentaries are incredibly interesting and Boyle makes for a lighthearted and entertaining track, as he switches between production information for the film to just general observations about the sci-fi genre as a whole.
Moving on we get nearly twenty minutes of deleted scenes, all of which were obviously expendable for sake of pace. Boyle commentary is provided on all of these as well, including the “alternate ending” as the DVD package touts, but it’s really nothing more than an early version of the ending we actually ended up getting—nothing worth getting excited over. Kind of sad, I was curious how the film could have ended alternately…oh well. Those hoping for a big behind-the-scenes documentary will be slightly disappointed, but those that didn’t follow the web production diaries will be glad to know all twenty-three are included here, making for what is essentially a cut up making-of featurette, split into interesting and easy to digest segments that are all under ten minutes.
Finally we have two short films, neither of which belong to director Danny Boyle, though he introduces them. The short films (“Molehills” and “Dad’s Dead”) have absolutely nothing to do with Sunshine, but Boyle wanted them to be seen so badly that he was able to get them onto this DVD release. They’re great little short films, though I am truly baffled how they managed to sneak their way onto a sci-fi DVD release.
Overall Sunshine is a remarkable film and it arrives on a solid DVD. I could see Fox releasing some sort of “director’s cut” down the road to capitalize on the eventual home video success of the film (it just screams the need to find a larger audience than it did in theaters—which I’m sure it will), but for now this DVD is a great release, backed with commentaries, deleted scenes and production diaries. Highly Recommended.
Sunshine is now available on DVD and Blu Ray.