Magazine article Out

Sunshine

Magazine article Out

Sunshine

Article excerpt

DALE PECK on the movies

It's hard to say where exactly Danny Boyle goes wrong with his latest movie, the sci-fi epic Sunshine, although it seems to have been doomed from its premise: In the year 2057 the sun has started to "die" (I put that in quotation marks because I'm not really sure what it means), as a result of which the earth has been thrown into "solar winter" (quotation marks this time because I'm pretty sure that's an oxymoron). Granted, one hardly expects realism from a summer blockbuster, but even within the realm of apocalyptic scenarios this is a bit of a head-scratcher. Not only is it implausible, but unlike 28 Days Later, Boyle's 2002 horror hit about a virus that kills almost everyone in the United Kingdom - Sunshine's raison d'être fails even to resonate with the fears of its audience. The last time I checked, most people were concerned with the world heating up, not cooling down.

In a last-ditch effort to save humanity, the nations of the world have joined together (another head-scratcher) to launch the Icarus II, a spaceship with an eight-person crew and a bomb "the size of Manhattan" that will fly into the sun and restart it. The entire movie takes place inside the ship, which, despite its huge size, seems to consist of half a dozen tidy little rooms, including a greenhouse that supplies the crew's oxygen and an observation deck in which they can view the sun through a window whose tint can be adjusted like a really, really expensive tanning booth. Unlike other movies confined to a single vessel - 2001 or Alien, to which Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland's story is self-consciously indebted, or even Star Trek or Titanic - the Icarus fails to gel into a comprehensible environment. Its chief feature is external: a golden shield several miles in diameter that protects the vessel from the sun's rays (though dying, Sol still packs quite a wallop). The shield is great to look at, and Boyle spends minutes showing it to us from every conceivable angle. So much of the movie is enveloped in its intense orange glow that my boyfriend and I left the movie feeling as if we'd spent two hours under a sun lamp. Just to make these shots more distracting, they're accompanied by a whooshing, burning rumble as the ship hurtles toward its trajectory - this even though, as Alien taught all of us, in space no one can hear you scream.

They can, however, hear you talk - or drone, as the case may be. The first third of Sunshine is given over to a series of character sketches that are either monologues, or dialogues with the ship's computer. These sketches are, first of all, dull. (Cillian Murphy, ship's physicist, likes to sit in the middle of his Manhattan-size bomb; Cliff Curtis, ship's doctor, likes to stare at the sun; and Chris Evans, ship's hunk, does not like to do pull-ups without a shirt on, but gives portentous speeches about the moral import of the mission.) They also fail to build any dynamic among the crew. This is lamentable, especially from the director of Trainspotting, The Beach, and 28 Days Later, movies that grew out of the incestuous tensions and affections within a clique. There's no real tension here, sexual or otherwise; any gay man hoping for a Chris Evans version of Ewan McGregor's suppository scene in Trainspotting will be sadly disappointed (just as women will be surprised to discover that action star Michelle Yeoh is cast as, of all things, a gardener).

So: Just as Icarus II is about to enter one of those communications dead zones (uhoh!) it receives a distress call from Icarus I, a similar ship that went missing (as they do) seven years earlier. Should the crew investigate? …

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