Tuesday, April 03, 2007

SUNSHINE: Dim, Cliched Sci-fi Caper

SUNSHINE (sci-fi adventure)
Cast: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy and Michele Yeoh
Director: Danny Boyle
Time: 103 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

The cast of 'Sunshine' at a conference
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? You have got to suspend your intellectual and common sense faculties when you watch "Sunshine". The plot, about a space mission (set 50 years into the future) to fly to the dying Sun and ‘nuke’ it back to life, demands an awful lot of ‘narrative licence’ on the part of the scripters. We all know that the Sun would die out some day but 50 years from now?
Also, we have to ‘buy’ all that scientific mumbo-jumbo about its spaceship, ominously named ‘Icarus 2’, hurtling towards the sun, protected only by a huge shield that deflects the sun’s rays. Now, even if that were scientifically possible, the name of the spaceship (from Greek mythology) would definitely give the plot away…

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? When we join the Icarus 2 mission after 16 months into the journey, we learn that the first Icarus spaceship has 'disappeared without a trace'. On board are eight scientists and astronauts, including a biologist named Corazon (our own Michele Yeoh) who provides the crew with fresh air and food from her Oxygen Garden.
However, right from the opening, Murphy’s Law (that anything that can go wrong will go wrong) applies – and we get the usual squabbles and relationship tension from the space-travellers led by Capt Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada). With a couple of hotheads like physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy) and flight engineer Mace (Chris Evans of "Fantastic Four") brawling like
schoolchildren, we wonder how these guys get picked for the mission in the first place.

HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS: True, these human entanglements help to sustain the movie until the next ‘big problem’ unravels, but we feel no sympathy for most of the crew and stay detached from their mission. The dialogue, by Alex Garland, is pedestrian and trite, and whatever hint of an on-board romance between navigator Cassie (Rose Byrne) and another crew member soon fizzles out for want of proper development.
The biggest problem for "Sunshine" is predictability. You would know, by the bankability of the actor or actress, who would last longest in the movie – and you don’t have to watch the whole series of Star Trek movies to know that something from the first Icarus mission is going to crop up and mess up the mission. Trouble is, the subplot also messes up the movie big time. The first two-thirds of the movie go reasonably well like "2001: A Space Odyssey" (complete with its sweet voiced Hal-like computer) but the third act takes the effort into cheap "Slasher" territory.
To be fair, director Danny Boyle (of "Trainspotting") seems to have a good thing going in the first half, especially in the technical department. Cinematography (by Alwin H. Kuchler) is first class, with stunning visuals of space stations, passing planets and solar glare. The cast are solid too, especially the Asian members like Sanada, Yeoh and Benedict Wong (as
Trey) who provide most of the heart-rending sequences.

THE LOWDOWN: For all its production values, "Sunshine" could have been a great sci-fi flick if Boyle had tried something new instead of resorting to cliches and cheap shocks to get our attention. It may be rather risky but the pay-off would be a sci-fi adventure that really shines.


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