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Sunshine: An Underrated Science Fiction Classic

October 15, 2014


Sunshine is an underrated science fiction epic that didn’t connect with the mainstream. It is an intellectually stimulating film that takes a journey into the heart of darkness near the sun. With Interstellar looming on the horizon ready to pulverize the senses (in a good way) I wanted to remind everyone about Sunshine.


I missed Sunshine in the theater but was able to watch it on Blu-ray (first film I watched on Blu). My buddy had a Blu-ray player and picked up Sunshine the day it came out. Between the large television, surround sound and amazing visuals I was hooked. The experience absolutely floored me and left me exhausted. It immediately became one of my favorite films and I’ve tried to get everyone I know to watch it.

The reason I love Sunshine is because of it’s singular vision. Boyle hired one company to do all the visual effects and he wrote the film with The Beach and 28 Days Later scribe Alex GarlandIt lives and dies on Boyle’s shoulders and that is why it is so effective. Sunshine has the same thing in common with my favorite films Jaws, Dr. Strangelove, Royal Tenenbaums and Hot Fuzz. They are singular visions by incredibly talented directors.

Danny Boyle Sunshine

Sunshine works because of the bonkers story, talented cast and beautiful visuals. The $40 million dollar budget was stretched perfectly. Boyle planned out the entire process and left nothing to chance. The actors lived together and learned to bond like a crew. Also, they didn’t have to act against blue/green screens. Boyle and his team built live sets and set up a system where strobing lights cascaded off their faces in order to get the most realistic performances.

Cliff Curtis

The film takes place in 2057 and focuses on a crew looking to reignite the sun. On board their massive ship they are hauling a nuclear bomb with the mass of Manhattan. They are second crew to attempt the mission and the world’s last hope. The technology is not over-complicated and it all feels grounded. Boyle said this about the look of ship “fifty years ago there were red buses. Now there are silver buses.” Boyle kept it simple and relied on practical technology and lots of blue/green/gray hues that showcased the powerful yellow of the sun.

Here is the blue and grey.

Sunshine cast

Here is the yellow.

sunshine gif

The cast made up of Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Cliff Curtis, Mark Strong, Troy Garity and Benedict Wong are all fantastic. Chris Evan’s has been vocal about the disappointing box office and has this to say about it.

I know, man. Like ten people saw it. All my good movies, nobody sees. Everybody goes and sees ‘Fantastic Four,’ but nobody sees ‘Sunshine.’ I’d have a different career if people saw that. I love that movie, man. I love Danny Boyle. I love that experience and I love that cast. That was one of those movies, top to bottom, I’m just in love with.

Chris Evans

Many have complained about the ending (I will not spoil anything). However, it is a Danny Boyle film. Have you watched his other stuff? He has never played it safe and I didn’t expect that in Sunshine. I will admit that the finale felt like a gut punch that comes out of nowhere. The film goes from A to B to Z quickly and it makes for some trippy visuals and a whole lot of head scratching. Boyle had this to say about the ending in an interview with Lumino magazine:

Some people find that Pinbacker breaks the realism too much. Which is fair enough, but I always love taking a huge risk in films where you risk everything by doing something that breaks the pattern. Like, there’s a bit in Trainspotting where Ewan [McGregor] goes down the toilet, and people used to say, ‘You’ll never get away with that. It’s ludicrous’. But, in fact, people love that moment. So that was always the plan, to take you and see how far we could stretch realism. Push it as hard as we could.

Danny Boyle films have always had a beautiful visual look and moments that push cinematic boundaries. He started with the low budget Shallow Grave and never looked back. Sunshine is a wonderful trip into a “Heart of Lightness” and deserves a second look.

Watch Sunshine. Let me know what you think.


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