“For seven years I spoke with God. He told me to take us all to Heaven.” – Pinbacker, Sunshine (2007)
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Danny Boyle film. After checking Letterboxd, this is in fact the first Danny Boyle film I’ve ever watched. I guess that does in fact mean I haven’t seen Trainspotting (1996). So, did Sunshine hype me up to go and watch all of the other Danny Boyle films available? No, not really. Leaping with a start and landing with a splat is the way Sunshine goes. No, that doesn’t make sense but I’m sticking with the analysis. You’ll have to stick around and read the rest of the review to figure out what went wrong with this film.
The sun is dying. After a failed attempt at reigniting it, a second team is sent out on the exact same mission. A team including Mace (Chris Evans), Capa (Cillian Murphy), Cassie (Rose Byrne) and Trey (Benedict Wong) are among the few sent to ignite the sun. When they encounter the first ship sent to blow up the sun, the morality of investigating what happened is thrown to the wall. It soon turns into a survival of the fittest, all the while Pinbacker (Mark Strong) is plotting his demonic like attack on the remaining crew.
For me, the entire film is just a very discount version of Alien (1979). A crew of mismatched and unique characters that are eventually going to die? Check. A monster or evil entity not introduced until well into an hour of the runtime? Check. What about a nice plot twist towards the end of the film that I didn’t see coming? Sort of. I suppose it’s a nice homage to Alien but I highly doubt that is what they were going for. But there’s just something about the film that screams “this is just a budget version of Alien but without the plot development”. It’s not a feeling any film should strive to contain.
Still, I’m sure a few decent performances can put that right. If I’m honest, the performances of most people involved in this film are forgettable at best. Chris Evans does everything he can to play some emotionless husk, and fails to do so. It’s actually quite ironic that when he tries to play an emotionless character he manages to muster the most emotion he possibly can. That being said, it’s not a good performance. I have no trouble with Chris Evans, apart from in this film, where his performance can definitely be described as very, very bland. It’s like watching paint dry but without the fun of actually watching the paint dry.
To be honest, the majority of the performances in this film are pretty damn bad. I didn’t expect it to be this bad, especially when you realise who the hell is in this film. Evans is obviously known for playing Captain America. Cillian Murphy can be best remembered by me for playing Scarecrow in The Dark Knight trilogy. Benedict Wong was a Countdown champion on The IT Crowd (2007 – 2014). Yes, Countdown, what prestige. Still, they seem to bring a lack of talent into this film. Benedict Wong was fairly good, but fairly good really doesn’t cut it with a film like this.
As far as the design of the ship went, it was very odd to me. There were definite tones once again of Alien, but a much more odd look to them. Some props genuinely looked like they had been wrapped in tin foil. Still, it wasn’t too much of a problem so long as they added to the atmosphere and overall tone of the film. Did they? Well, not really, if I’m honest it did nothing for the atmosphere.
The atmosphere to the film is very dull. Sure, there are moments of action and tension, but it’s very questionable as to how much they actually add to the story. There’s a bit where two of the characters are killed off in quick succession and honestly, it meant nothing. What was it supposed to do? They were two characters I barely knew, so of course I’m not going to care. Obviously the film focuses more on other characters, but each character should be integral to the plot. It’s not a spoiler, but the captain dies. He’s in the film for around half an hour and his death is the stupidest thing of all.
You know a film is mediocre when the most impressive part about it was the transition from opening logo to film. They did like a sunrise thing where it just got closer to the sun. I’m really not sure why that blew my mind so much. Simple things, simple minds I suppose. Either way, this film was just not my cup of tea. I can definitely see why it received the positive critical response, sort of. Just for me it doesn’t work all that well, and that can be put down to a number of comments throughout my review.
I think the biggest problem for me though, regardless of cast, set design or plot, was the tension. A true thriller can conjure up some brilliantly tense scenes, Sunshine offers nothing of the sort. When it tries to create suspense it feels very artificial and stiff, there isn’t a pay off most of the time. When your thriller can’t create thrills, that’s when you know you have a problem.
Still, Sunshine wasn’t terribly bad. It’s run of the mill. Mediocre. Not bad and certainly not good. Somewhere in the middle, the films that are just okay. I wouldn’t watch it again but I’m not disappointed with it either. It’s an awkward mix to display, but there you have it. Sunshine is a film, and that’s all I really know about it. The cast are mediocre, everything is just mediocre. Nothing stands out and therefore the film just can’t impress me. Like I said previously, it feels like a rip off of Alien but without the Alien.
There are a few good pointers though, I haven’t been thoroughly disappointed with Danny Boyle. I’ll give his other films a go. There’s just something about space that is incredibly dull, and it’s difficult to produce a film out of that. No better example of this can be found. Look no further than Sunshine for how not to make a thriller.