"Little Missed Sunshine"
by Scott Mantz
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle — the creative team behind 2002's terrifying “28 Days Later” — “Sunshine” has to be one of the most derivative sci-fi movies to come along in years. And that's okay for a little while, since it stylistically navigates through top genre classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Alien” and both versions of “Solaris.” But once it veers off course into “Event Horizon” and “Supernova” territory, it all but implodes, betraying the cerebral intelligence that it so effectively earned during its first hour.
The year is 2057, and our sun is dying. It's up to the crew of the Icarus II to travel across the heavens, shoot a bomb the size of Manhattan into the star, and hope that it detonates with enough firepower to reignite it. But when they receive a distress signal from the Icarus I — which vanished without a trace seven years earlier — they are faced with an enormous dilemma. Should they stay on course to complete their mission, or should they rendezvous with the disabled ship and grab that second bomb? That would certainly increase their odds for success, but it might also further jeopardize their chances of saving all life on earth.
Ever since his breakthrough with 1996's ultra-hip “Trainspotting,” Danny Boyle has proven to be a confident, prolific, visionary filmmaker who refuses to make the same type of movie twice. As it is, it's truly mind-boggling how easily he's been able to shift gears from the horrifying, gruesome nature of “28 Days Later” to the touching, idealistic sweetness of 2004's “Millions” to the provocative, profound ideas found here. And while “Sunshine” doesn't quite reinvent the deep space opera, it still qualifies as a worthy adventure, thanks to a powerful musical score, dazzling visual effects, and an intense directing style that effectively conveys the claustrophobic confines of space travel (especially in a spacesuit).
That's why it's so disheartening to see it unravel with an inept climax that feels like it was tacked on from another film. Perhaps sensing this weak payoff, Boyle tries to distract the moviegoer with a more hyper-kinetic editing technique that only winds up accentuating the last-minute problems even more. It doesn't help that many of the crew members fall into cabin fever-suffering stereotypes, with Chris Evans as the temperamental bad boy and Rose Byrne as the moral voice of reason. But at least Cillian Murphy (reuniting with Boyle after “28 Days Later”) gives a more Zen-like attitude to his character, who winds up being the most crucial to the success of the mission.
Even though “Sunshine” fizzles out during the last 30 minutes, it burns bright enough for well over the first hour to leave a lasting enough impression. That's mostly because of the scope of what's at stake here, since it really is bigger than all of us. In an age where the human race is threatened by a number of factors, including terrorism, global warming, starvation and over-population, it's extremely humbling to think that our ultimate fate rests on just one thing: the stability of the sun. Without it, all life on our precious planet would simply cease to exist. With a heavy message like that, maybe “Sunshine” isn't so derivative after all.
VERDICT: SEE IT