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SUNSHINE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Danny Boyle
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2008

ďOur sun is dying. Mankind faces extinction. Seven years ago the Icarus project sent a mission to restart the sun, but that mission was lost before it reached the star. Sixteen months ago, I, Robert Capa, and a crew of seven left earth frozen in a solar winter. Our payload: a stellar bomb with a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island. Our purpose, to create a star within a star.

Öeight astronauts strapped the back of a bomb, my bomb. Welcome to Icarus II.Ē

Film ****

What was my favorite movie of last summer, you ask? Not Transformers, The Bourne Ultimatum or Live Free or Die Hard. It was actually a little film that flew under the radar called Sunshine. I was fortunate enough to catch it in its theatrical run, and after seeing it I couldnít help but feel bad that so many people were going to miss out on a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Danny Boyle is an ideal director to breathe new life into whatever genre he takes a hold of. Several years back, he re-invented the zombie movie with 28 Days Later, and now he has done the same for the science fiction with Sunshine. In addition to its sci-fi qualities, Boyleís film also contains elements of disaster and horror movies, each aspect working to the fullest effect.

And in terms of its visionary qualities, this is one of the most spectacular looking science fiction movies since the cream of the crop, 2001: A Space Odyssey. And not since Ridley Scottís Alien have I felt a feeling of both beauty and terror in an outer space setting. Boyle and his production team have crafted a visionary masterpiece that is one for the history books in that regard. Right from the filmís sensational opening shot, in which the Fox logo segue ways right into the stars, the movie grips you with both itís visuals and story setup.

But the splendid production values and the astonishing visuals arenít the only thing Sunshine has to offer. Boyleís frequent screenwriting collaborator, Alex Garland, has written what can simply be described as one of the best screenplays ever for a science fiction film. Itís one of the few screenplays that, from my perspective, balances both the ideas and entertainment value of sci-fi storytelling perfectly. I canít remember the last film in the genre to do this.

50 years in the future, the sun is dying at a premature rate, causing Earth to slowly die in a frozen state. A team of astronauts and scientists has been sent to re-ignite the source of all living things by injecting a massive bomb, thus giving the sun a much-needed burst of solar energy. This is the second attempt at saving the planet following a first mission, which failed for mysterious reasons.

The crew on board the Icarus II is entirely focused on delivering the bomb right into the heart of the star. However, psychological conditions, among others, are starting to weigh in as a number of the crew start to become slightly unstable as they near the sun. The crew consists of Capa (Cillian Murphy), the physicist who has built the bomb, Searle (Cliff Curtis), the shipís psychiatrist, Cassie (Rose Byrne) the shipís pilot, Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), who oversees the greenhouse, Mace (Chris Evans), the engineer, Harvey (Troy Garity) the communications officer, Trey (Benedict Wong), the navigation officer and Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), the shipís captain.

As they grow closer to the sun, the crew is faced with a number of horrific obstacles. This results in a number of casualties, but in an original way the startling deaths are caused pretty much by the very environment they are in. And the movie will make you aware of one certain thing; death by sun looks every bit as unsettling as it must feel.

Now itís true that the movie does make something of a shift in tone for its final act. While this may throw viewers off, I found it to be a great way to finish off the movie. It was reminiscent of the final scenes in Event Horizon, but done with a much more powerful effect and visual punch.

Sunshine represents Danny Boyleís most accomplished piece of directing yet, and thatís really saying something about the same man who painted the uncompromising apocalyptic vision of 28 Days Later. Boyle and cinematographer Alwin Kuchler deliver so many individual shots that will strike you instantly and stay in your mind. And when the visual effects blend in, the result is mesmerizing work of art. The music score by John Murphy and the experimental music group Underworld is, if anything, a remarkable treat for the ears even in the more subtle moments.

Honestly, not even my praise can do the film justice. Sunshine is a film that you simply have to experience for yourself. Words canít begin to describe the feeling of being in this movieís grip from start to finish. Not only is it one of the yearís very best films, but it is also one of the most visually absorbing cinematic experiences Iíve ever had.

Video ****

Well, this is my first review for a 2008 release, and I can already tell you that this title will be in the running for the next DMC Awards in the video category. Having seen the film in its theatrical run, I had a strong feeling that this would make for an outstanding looking DVD presentation. Every visual aspect is at its highest possibly quality, from the interior of the spaceship to the outer space environment. And the colors are quite simply astonishing, creating images that simply have to be seen! What a way to kick off the new year in DVDs than with such a top of the line looking disc!

Audio ****

WOW! Few audio presentations have amazed me this much! The 5.1 mix delivers dynamically right from the opening effects shot. And just about every scene that follows gives any sound system something to work with in terms of surround sound qualities. The blending of the outstanding effects and the phenomenal music score make for a one of a kind sound presentation you wonít soon forget. We here at DMC come across so many fantastic sounding discs, but trust me when I say that this movie is a must own on the basis of the audio quality alone!

Features ***1/2

This release from Fox features some truly nice extras, starting with two commentary tracks; the first with director Danny Boyle, and the second with Dr. Brian Cox from The University of Manchester (who believes the filmís premise to be absolutely truthful). Both commentaries are superb and informative listens. Also features are Web Production Diaries, which run close to 40 minutes altogether, Deleted Scenes with optional commentary from Danny Boyle, two short films; Dadís Dead and Mole Hills, and a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

Sunshine is grand piece of visionary science fiction cinema that ranks among the very best films of the genre. A true sci-fi fan couldnít ask for a better film to satisfy their fix, and Danny Boyleís significant touch makes this a canít-afford-to-miss movie experience!

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