In the year 2057, the sun is dying, and if it goes, so does Earth, and every human being. The only hope lies with an eight-member crew of astronauts and scientists, sent to deliver a payload that will save the sun. The crew, manning Icarus II, is sailing near the heart of the sun, and as the film begins, the first effects of fascination are beginning to infiltrate the hearts and minds of the crew. Searle (Curtis), the ship’s psychiatrist, experiments with light immersion, setting the tone for exposure as a major plot element.
Led by the master computer, Icarus, the crew is exposed to conditions no one else has ever seen, heard or felt. They find themselves entering the “dead zone.” Communications are gone, and the crew can only proceed blind. Kaneda (Sanada) captains the ship, willing to listen to all opinions before making the important decisions. Capa (Murphy) handles the science behind the ship’s payload. Corazon (Yeoh) maintains the oxygen garden. Mace (Evans) and Harvey (Troy Garity) handle pilot duties. Cassie (Byrne) and Trey (Benedict Wong) are additional scientists.
The astronauts detect a familiar sound coming through in transmission. The sound is identified as the distress beacon coming from Icarus I, a flight that attempted this mission and failed. After debate and consideration, Kaneda makes the decision to pursue the possibility that someone may have survived. More importantly, Capa reveals that there is a chance that the Icarus I payload is still intact, giving the crew two chances to save mankind. Attempting to reach the first ship results in severe damage to Icarus II, and sets in motion a chain of events that alter every character in ways they can’t imagine.
The Icarus II crew begin to come apart, just like the ship around them. When they board the first Icarus, they find hope. The garden is intact. The payload is up and running, and most of the systems still work. They also find something mysterious about the original crew. The mission is sabotaged and they must make a desperate attempt to board their ship. Soon, the members face mission failure, oxygen deprivation, and the growing knowledge that none of them will make it home alive. The flight becomes a fight for survival against outside forces, unknown dangers, and one another.
“Sunshine” is a beautiful film, with elaborate space scenes that branch from miniscule to collosal. The film’s digital effects create the scope while the actors create the claustrophobia. Director Danny Boyle uses some very unorthodox techniques to keep viewers puzzled as the crew members learn about the failure of Icarus I and the potential disaster of Icarus II. The acting is solid across the board, and the story is a fascinating mix of sci-fi and human factor.
Visual effects include digital frame skipping, 50 gig dual-layering, and some very funky subliminal images. The film is driven by the visuals and looks positively amazing in the 1080p HD Resolution provided on Blu-ray.
Give Boyle and writer Alex Garland credit. They made a fascinating film that has as many McGuffins as a handful of Hitchcock. The scientific aspects offer plenty of possibilities, from meeting God to psychological manifestation. These many tangents are drawn to life by a desperate group of people with breathtaking scenes from the surface of the sun.
Blu-Ray extras abound in this Fox Searchlight Pictures release. First is a commentary track with director Boyle that provides some interesting insight, including possibilities about the origin of the crew’s enemy. An additional commentary track features Dr. Brian Cox of the University of Manchester. Cox was the primary science advisor to the film. Web production diaries and deleted scenes are also included. There are also two short films with introduction by Boyle. Finally, picture-in-picture enabled blu-ray players will be able to share “enhanced viewing mode.” This turns on additional features during the film.