USA/UK 2007, 107 mins
Director: Danny Boyle

SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.

It’s 2057. The sun is dying and the Earth is in a precipitous state, with all life threatened as the planet turns into a frozen wasteland. Hope lies with the small crew of Icarus II, who are carrying a massive bomb that will hopefully jump-start the fading star. But the crew soon realises there’s as great a danger aboard their vessel as there is in the celestial object that awaits them.

Written by Alex Garland, Danny Boyle’s psychological thriller is a visually dazzling, genre-bending exercise in suspense.

A contemporary review
In Danny Boyle’s Sunshine we do not see people gathering in bars to watch newscasts from Paris or London and cheering on the heroic astronauts of Icarus II on their mission to revive the sun. When at last we get a glimpse of Earth, stuck in near-permanent winter, it’s a rather unapocalyptic Christmas-card landscape with kids making snowmen. No one whoops it up at mission control, and for all we know the only person who realises the mission has succeeded in ‘saving mankind and so on’ is the sister of the ship’s chief physicist Capa, who receives a video message from him. By eliminating the disaster-movie convention of giving doomsday an on-screen audience, as in the generically similar Armageddon (1998) and The Day after Tomorrow (2004), Sunshine removes the sickly screen-traversing sense of camaraderie in the face of catastrophe that – along with the spectacle of cities being destroyed – forms a part of those films’ appeal. Yet Boyle’s overturning of genre expectations is no mere nose-thumbing idiosyncrasy: Sunshine’s exclusion of the summer blockbusters’ surrogate audience intensifies its grip on its actual audience.

Without stinting on popcorn thrills, Alex Garland’s script consistently pits the viewer’s desire to see the crew of Icarus II survive against the crew’s own determination to complete their mission. The death of everyone on board is more or less unavoidable from the get-go, and as the film reaches its climax, all dramatic choices boil down to the need to reach the target, every chance of survival or escape ruled out by the depletion of the ship’s oxygen supplies (despite the suggestion that three ‘breathers’ be killed to save the mission). Co-pilot Cassie, the film’s most sympathetic character, is also the most frequently wrong, as when she chooses to save Capa and Captain Kaneda rather than extinguish a fire that threatens the entire ship. And yet, far from providing a neat opposition between the rational and the humanistic, the crew’s motivation is nicely complicated by the uncertainty of the whole mission.

Capa’s decision to dock with Icarus I, sent on the same mission seven years earlier, is made by weighing ‘risk of detour, benefits of second bomb’ as psych officer Searle puts it, with the scales tipped by the uncertainty that either payload will have the intended effect anyway. But Capa is using the abundance of imponderables to cover his curiosity about the fate of the first mission, and even his desire to rescue its crew. When, waxing poetic, he tells Cassie that he is looking forward to seeing a new star born at the moment of his own immolation, he isn’t just spinning her a line. All that is certain is death, and Capa’s positive acceptance of this fact is only the obverse of the wish of Icarus I’s captain, Pin backer, to abort the mission and make himself the last man alone with God. Likewise Searle’s decision to stay on Icarus I to save two of his crewmates combines altruistic and nihilistic urges since it enables him to experience the sun’s heat without a filter. Heroic self-sacrifice shades into death-drive.

As with Garland and Boyle’s previous sci-fi collaboration 28 Days Later (2002), this is the end of the world done without much in the way of laughs or kisses; visually, however, it is anything but gloomy, leaving the aggressively ‘digital’ look of the earlier film somewhat time-bound. Throughout, Boyle and ace DoP Alwin Kuchler (Morvern Callar, Code 46) exploit elemental contrasts of darkness and light, heat and cold, with the CGI and model work beautiful but mostly unobtrusive until the radically disorienting final scenes. As Pin backer fights Capa and Cassie aboard the tumbling payload, Boyle throws out temporal and spatial continuity – as well as a certain degree of comprehensibility – in a genuinely breath-taking sequence that combines visceral terror with Kubrickian wonder.
Henry K. Miller, Sight and Sound, April 2007

Directed by: Danny Boyle
©: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment LLC, TCF Hungary Film Rights Exploitation Limited Liability Company
Production Company: DNA Films Ltd
Made in association with: Dune Entertainment LLC, Major Studio Partners
Presented by: Fox Searchlight Pictures, DNA Films Ltd
Presented in association with: UK Film Council, Ingenious Film Partners
Stockholm Shoot: Poppis Production Service AB
Produced by: Andrew Macdonald
Co-producer: Bernard Bellew
For DNA Films (Executive): Allon Reich
For DNA Films (Business Affairs): Joanne Smith
Production Accountant: Wendy Ellerker
Production Co-ordinator: Kate Penlington
Stockholm Shoot (Poppis Production Service AB): René Zuber
Unit Production Manager: Bernard Bellew
Post-production Supervisor: Clare St. John
1st Assistant Director: Richard Styles
2nd Assistant Director: Carlos Fidel
3rd Assistant Director: Susan Drennan
2nd Unit 1st Assistant Director: Toby Ford
2nd Unit 3rd Assistant Director: Henry Forsyth
Model Unit 1st Assistant Director: Bryn Lawrence
Script Supervisor: Anna Worley
2nd Unit Script Supervisor: Sharon Mansfield
Model Unit Script Supervisor: Tess Malone
Casting by: Donna Isaacson, Gail Stevens
Screenplay: Alex Garland
Director of Photography: Alwin Küchler
2nd Unit Director of Photography: Peter Talbot
Model Unit Director of Photography: Stuart Galloway
Camera Operator: Alastair Rae
Focus Puller: Olly Tellett
2nd Unit Focus Pullers: Alex Howe, Simon Heck
Model Unit Focus Puller: Faye
Clapper Loaders: Peter Byrne, Jason Dully
2nd Unit Clapper Loaders: Barney Crocker, Richard Copeman
Model Unit Clapper Loader: Jon Howard
Key Grip: Adrian McCarthy
Steadicam Operators: Paul Edwards, Alastair Rae
Gaffer: Reuben Garrett
2nd Unit Gaffer: Harry Wiggins
Model Unit Gaffer: Steve O’Donoghue
Video Playback Operator: Stuart Bridges
Unit Stills Photographers: Alex Bailey, Jay Maidment
Visual Effects Supervisor: Tom Wood
Visual Effects Editor: Mark Eckersley
Visual Effects by: Moving Picture Company
Special Effects Supervisor: Richard Conway
Senior Special Effects Technician: Sam Conway
Senior Standby Special Effects Tech: Mark White
Senior Special Effects Technicians: Terry Bridle, Andrew Kelly, Jason Leinster, Nigel Stanley Nixon, Paul Stephenson, Dave Watson
Wire Effects Co-ordinator: Kevin Welch
Senior Wire Operators: Alan Perez, Neal Murray
Model Unit Motion Control Operator: Ian Menzies
Model Unit Model Special Effects Co-ordinator: Robbie Scott
Model Unit Senior Model Special Effects Technicians: Steve Onions, Mark Bullimore
Video/Computer Supervisor: Bob Bridges
Model Maker: Hester Clark
HoD Modeller: Pierre Bohanna
Supervising Modeller: Toby Hawkes
Senior Modellers: Adrian Getley, Tracey Curtis, Glenn Haddock
Graphic Designer: Anita Dhillon
Graphic Animation (Mere Mortals Ltd.): Anita Dhillon
Editor: Chris Gill
1st Assistant Editor: Emanuele Giraldo
2nd Assistant Editor: Tina Richardson
Production Designer: Mark Tildesley
Supervising Art Director: David Warren
Art Directors: Gary Freeman, Stephen Morahan, Denis Schnegg
Model Unit Art Director: Kate Grimble
Stand-by Art Director: Gavin Fitch
2nd Unit Stand-by Art Director: Remo Tozzi
Assistant Art Directors: Susan Whitaker, Guy Bradley
Set Decorator: Michelle Day
Draughtsmen: Peter Dorme, Matt Robinson, Emma Vane, Catherine Haugh
Junior Draughtsman: Oliver Goodier
Storyboard Artist: Brendan Houghton
Property Master: Nick Thomas
Production Buyer: Dominic Capon
Construction Manager: Thomas Martin
Costume Designer: Suttirat Anne Larlarb
Assistant Costume Designer: Nicole Young
Costume Supervisor: Michael Mooney
Chief Make-up/Hair Designer: Christine Blundell
Pinbacker Make-up Designer: Mark Coulier
Make-up Artists: Lesa Warrener, Nuria Mbomio
Key Prosthetic Make-up Artists: Duncan Jarman, Shaune Harrison
Prosthetic Make-up Artist: Matthew Smith
End Titles Designed by: Matt Curtis
Colourist: Jean-Clement Soret
Negative Cutting: Cutting Edge
Music by: John Murphy, Underworld
Mystic Breaths: The Choristers of Gloucester Cathedral
Orchestra Conducted by: Matt Dunkley
Music Executive: Mike Knobloch
Music Contractors: David Sabee, Simon James
Music Editor: Andrew Wilkinson
Music Recorded/Mixed by: Gustavo Borner
Sound Design: Glenn Freemantle, Tom Sayers
Production Sound Mixer: Tim Fraser
Boom Operator: Will Towers
Re-recording Mixers: John Hayward, Richard Pryke
Additional Re-recording: Ian Tapp
Supervising Sound Editor: Glenn Freemantle
Dialogue Editor: Gillian Dodders
Sound Effects Editors: Tom Sayers, Niv Adiri
Effects Editor: Keith Tinman
ADR Mixers: Paul Carr, Andy Thompson
ADR Editor: Gillian Dodders
Foley Artist: Nicolas Becker
Foley Recordist: Philippe Amouroux
Foley Editor: Hugo Adams
Scientific Consultant: Brian Cox
Stunt Co-ordinator: Julian Spencer
Dialect Coach: Andrew Jack
Made at: Three Mills Studios

Rose Byrne (Cassie)
Cliff Curtis (Searle)
Chris Evans (Mace)
Troy Garity (Harvey)
Cillian Murphy (Capa)
Hiroyuki Sanada (Captain Kaneda)
Mark Strong (Pinbacker)
Benedict Wong (Trey)
Michelle Yeoh (Corazon)
Chipo Chung (voice of Icarus)
Paloma Baeza (Capa’s sister)
Archie Macdonald, Sylvie MacDonald (children)

USA/UK 2007©
107 mins

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