This is the first of an ongoing series in which I “review” movies, games, music and other forms of pop culture that I feel have been neglected, shafted, ignored, or otherwise overlooked. ‘Review’ is in quotes there because, with a title like Overlooked Awesomeness, I clearly don’t think ill of the item I’m bringing to your attention; I’m just counting off the reasons you need to go check it out right now.
Enough explanation. On with the entry!
“Sunshine” is directed by a brilliant British director, currently best-known for last year’s “Slumdog Millionare,” which garnered him an Academy Award. He is probably even better known among the nerd set for directing the alternately moody and terrifying “28 Days Later.” So we know from the start that we are in good hands here.
The film opens with a shot of the sun against the blackness of space, and a voiceover from Dr. Robert Capa, our hero:
Our 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. Eight astronauts strapped to the back of a bomb. My bomb. Welcome to the Icarus II.
This, by the way, is the Icarus II–the huge disc is the heat shield that keeps the crew, the ship and the bomb from being vaporized as they approach our star. The long tube-like part is where the crew lives. I absolutely love the design of this ship:
The crew themselves are made up of several necessary sci-fi ship crew archtypes: brave and noble captain Kaneda; Mace, the macho engineer who keeps the ship running; Trey, the hyperbrilliant and slightly egotistical navigator, and so on. All the characters feel slightly familiar to us, but it is the warm, welcome familiarity of seeing a good friend. The writing is so strong, and each actor plays their part so impeccably, that the archtypes they inhabit function as jumping-off points–by the end of the movie we have not only come to understand their place on the ship as a member of the crew, we have come to understand something of their heart as individual human beings as well. This is not a movie about slam-bang action scenes (although it offers plenty of that too, especially in the last half). It is a movie about these characters, their interactions, and their motives for and perceptions of this huge journey they have undertaken.
Ordinarily I would add a more detailed summary, or offer more detailed looks at the characters (especially the latter, if only to gush on and on and ON about how fucking brilliant Cillian Murphy is–and believe me, he is), but with this movie, the less you know, the better. I came to it completely unaware of anything about it beyond the fact that I liked the concept, and I liked the DVD cover. The movie was better for it. If you really must spoil yourself further, I offer you Roger Ebert’s excellent review. He doesn’t say much more than I do, honestly, but he does throw out a few extra details about (what becomes) the main plot.
A few other things of note: the special effects in this movie are absolutely mind-blowing. This movie was made for 20 million dollars, and it looks like it could have easily been double or triple that. How Boyle managed it, and managed it *artfully* is a mystery to me (especially when people like Michael Bay can throw 200 million at a movie, and come out of it with nothing but generic looking chrome robots and a lot of explosions.) The sound is similarly sublime, from the haunting and beautiful score by John Murphy (who also worked with Boyle on “28 Days Later”) to the creepy-yet-beautiful sounds of space, the whole thing is immersive and brilliant.
One final note: since you’ll no doubt be watching this on DVD if you choose to give it a look, make SURE to catch both commentary tracks. Danny Boyle narrates one, giving plenty of interesting and worthwhile insight into the design and movie making process. But the second track is the real gem–a real-life physicist, Dr. Brian Cox, who acted as the science adviser for the film, gives his take on the movie from a scientific (and personal) perspective. Having him on the DVD was a brilliant move, and if you find space and/or physics at all interesting, you owe it to yourself to check out the DVD for this reason alone.
Whatever reason you watch this movie for, though, you will not be disappointed.
Here’s the trailer which you might want to check out. This version makes the movie look a lot more action oriented than it really is, but the full version was so full of spoilers you might as well just see the whole movie. So for what its worth:
At least it gives you an idea of the amazing quality of the visuals!