In the year 2057, Earth is frozen in a solar winter, and to save mankind, a team of seven astronauts venture on a last-ditch mission to reignite the sun with a megaton nuclear warhead. Positing itself as the thinking man's version of Armageddon, The Core, or any other number of last-ditch-effort-to-save-mankind movies, Sunshine technically does everything right. The multicultural ensemble cast is uniformly convincing. The production design of the spaceship is impeccable and seems to be a thoroughly researched, grungy, and lived-in amalgamation of NASA shuttles and submarines. The color palette is a striking mix of cool blues and greens that are blasted away by the light of the sun, which is represented as a swirling, pulsating mix of yellow, burnt ambers, and gleaming whites.
Ever the cinematic stylist, director Danny Boyle goes for strong visual choices including transposing claustrophobic shots from inside an astronaut's helmet to the overwhelming vastness of outer space. But despite all that talent on display, Sunshine is a philosophical blank slate. In Sam Shepard's True West, a character mutters that as he was searching for themes, all he found were theme parks. The power of the sun, ever increasing as the spaceship draws closer, leads many characters to either vast epiphanies or careening madness. But these moments play out like a pot smoker's fuzzy illusion of wisdom, where all that can be said in the light of our most powerful star is, "Woah…awesome."
Fox Searchlight Pictures has requested that critics not reveal too much about the film's surprises, including, especially, the ending. While I wouldn't dream of giving away whether our heroes succeed in their mission, or the increasing peril they find themselves in, anyone expecting more than a slightly smarter version of Event Horizon (a bizarre version of that film's acrid Sam Neill character weakens whatever aspirations Sunshine had for being taken seriously in the first place) is bound for disappointment and must content himself with wondering who is going to die next in yet another round of cinematic Ten Little Indians.