[Contains crispy-skinned SPOILERS!]
Although the crew of the starship Enterprise have gotten themselves into some pretty hairy scrapes over the years, I can’t say I ever fretted for their safety the way I did with the characters in Sunshine (2007). The poor sods seemed to be living on a perpetual knife-edge as they piloted their fragile, barely-shielded spaceship towards a dying sun, in the hope of somehow reigniting it (!?) with a nuclear bomb.
Now, first things first… if you’re planning a perilous mission involving the Sun and some sort of flying vessel, it’s probably a bad idea to name that vessel after a mythical character who’s major claim to fame is that he arrogantly flew too close to the Sun on makeshift wax-and-feather wings, which then melted off his arms, sending him spiralling down into the sea to drown. It’s just not a very auspicious name, is what I’m saying. Even worse, after losing contact with the first “Icarus” once it began its final approach, the morons running this mission decided to launch a second craft to complete the bombing run, and called it “Icarus II”! Gah! Why not just call it “Doomed to Fail” or “Lost Forever” or “The Magnificent Suicide Machine”!?
Nonsensical names aside, I did find the first half of this film properly tense and suspenseful, as the long-confined crew tried to keep a lid on their cabin fever, bickering and bouncing off each other like pinballs, under the unblinking eye of the daystar, glowering through their viewport like an angry god-of-hellfire. The space-walk sequence was particularly nerve-wracking, with the astronauts lumbering around in their golden suits, desperately trying to stay in the shadows, while they made repairs to the outer hull. Unfortunately all that well-constructed conflict and claustrophobia is blown straight out the airlock when they catch up with their predecessors’ (seemingly deserted) ship, and pick up a batshit-crazy stowaway, who turns the whole thing into a jerky, blurry slasher flick. I understand that director Danny Boyle was going for a deliberately “surreal” effect in these scenes, but even with the clearest, calmest cinematography in the world, the sudden and inexplicable appearance of a zealous serial killer would still have been a pretty jarring (and rather silly) gear-change. I did find the final scene on Earth quite moving, and overall I thought it was a very beautiful movie to *look* at… I just wish it had been as pleasing to the brain as it was to the eyes.
The ship’s crew comprised six men to two women, so apparently there hadn’t been much progress made on the gender equality front by 2057… and most of the meaty action was taken by the testosterone-fuelled male characters, so we didn’t even get to see the best of the quality actresses cast in these thankless supporting roles. Despite greatly enjoying her work in Bridesmaids, I totally failed to recognise Rose Byrne here, playing the ship’s pilot, ‘Cassie’ . To be fair, she did get a few funny lines, but her main function was really to play cheerleader/damsel-in-distress for the movie’s hero (Cillian Murphy… who’s certainly pretty enough to be a woman, but doesn’t technically qualify). Butt-kicking “Bond Girl” Michelle Yeoh got even less to do as the ship’s biologist, ‘Corazon’, whose sole raison d’être is removed once the on-board oxygen garden is burned to ashes by a stray sunbeam (I’m still not totally clear on how that happened, but… let’s not worry about it now, eh?). Meanwhile, the ship’s plot-hole-prone computer was voiced by Chipo Chung, who also had a recurring role as Eva Green’s handmaiden ‘Vivian’ in Camelot.
Speaking of shows that were cancelled too soon, the style of this movie really reminded me of Defying Gravity, which came out two years later. Apparently the first (and only) season was released on DVD earlier this year… so I’ll have to keep an eye out for that, now that I’ve got b-day money coming my way.