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SUNSHINE
Blu-ray Edition

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, DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2008

ďEight astronauts strapped to 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 ****

Being that Iím both relatively new to the Blu Ray format and wonít have a player of my own for several months, itís pretty much unfair of me to go right on record and select the absolute best video presentation Iíve experienced to date. But I canít help itÖSunshine is one hell of a visual presentation, and if itís not THE best Blu Ray presentation, Iím sure it will serve as one of the best ever. As if the presentation on the regular DVD wasnít incredible enough, the image provided by the Blu Ray edition is every bit as amazing as I imagined. And it should be, since nearly every shot in this film offers something astonishing for the eyes. The effects and breathtaking camerawork really show off in a fantastic way. Sunshine is the very kind of motion picture that was made for Blu Ray, and you make sure that once youíve purchased your player that this is the first disc you pick up!

Audio ****

The filmís sound design is one of a kind, and the excellent sound mix on this Blu Ray takes full advantage of it, resulting in a phenomenal sounding experience. Not only do you get the already fantastic 5.1 mix, as included on the standard DVD release, but you get a real kicker in the form of a DTS HD 5.1 track, which really delivers the kick such a type of sound mix promises. From the very first shot of the film, you will find it very hard not to be enthralled by the amazing sound quality. Not only do the effects sound astonishing, but also the brilliant score by John Murphy and Underworld is without question one of the best pieces of film music Iíve heard yet on a Blu Ray disc.

Features ****

The world of Sunshine is enhanced to full effect on this Fox release. Included we get 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 the Theatrical Trailer presented in High Definition.

And exclusive to the Blu Ray release, we get an ďEnhanced Viewing Mode with the Filmmakers of SunshineĒ, a most engaging Picture-in-Picture feature, as well as ďJourney Into Sound - Surround Sound EnhancementĒ, where you can play four scenes and switch the audio to whichever speakers they want to in real time.

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! And for all Blu Ray enthusiasts, the movie is an absolute must-own!

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