April 25, 2008

Sunshine (2007)

There has been a draught in good serious sci-fi lately. So when I learned that Boyle was making a new film in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solarys, I knew I had to see it. The last good thing in terms of sci-fi I saw was last year's Children of Men, though it was more of a post-apocalyptic odyssey than a self-exploratory space-journey à la Solarys. There is of course Soderbergh's 2002 remake, but that had the disadvantage of being compared to the original, which rendered it flawed by default, because no matter how great Soderbergh's work is, he would have to work very hard to emulate Tarkovsky, and even then, it will still only be an emulation. This is not to say that Sunshine is perfect when compared to Soderbergh's Solaris. The film has its flaws, no doubt, the ending being the major flaw of them all, but it has its good points as well. Visually it's very reminiscent of Kubrick's work and atmospherically it has many things in common with both A Space Odyssey and with Solarys. Boyle did a good job in creating a believable and interesting future spaceship and the camera lavishly lingers over the immense structure floating through space towards the sun. Slow spinning antennas that whoosh in a deep rumble as they go past the camera might not be the most realistic sound but it gives the effect of experiencing something immense that is slowly floating away in space towards its destination. Other nice visuals are the scenes in the viewing room where they get to filter the sun's light just enough to make it look visually interesting when they have a conversation and give the characters red outlines as a huge image of the sun looms in the background. I also liked the scene of Cillian Murphy recording the video for his relatives on earth. The contrast of his almost unnaturally blue eyes with the fluorescent green of the background form the video gives the image a very interesting quality, perhaps an overly artistic one, though one that I found pleasing. Perhaps the only visual negative I could find were the golden spacesuits that look more like those old diver suits than space suits, and which I found much more effective in the shots filmed from the inside, with the little visor giving a sort of claustrophobic feeling. If I had to compare it with more recent sci-fi I would have to draw parallels with things like 1997's Event Horizon or 2000's Mission to Mars, though it is far superior to both of those. That said, I cannot say it was perfect. The so called plot twist at the end is largely to blame, though I'm not sure I can think of anything better than what writer Alex Garland came up with. Perhaps something less specific and more spiritual like the ending of Solarys, with more questions and loose ends than we're left with at the end of Sunshine. Overall I would say it was worth its 1:48 running time and it provided a much needed serious sci-fi fix for those of us that think sci-fi shouldn't be all explosions and lasers.