Danny Boyle has a thing about Zombies: Whether it's the human, heroin fuelled kind in Trainspotting, the George A. Romero flesh eating kind in 28 Days later or sunburned astronauts with a religiosity complex that just look like zombies, he's always been one for portraying the undead with flourish.
In Sunshine, he nevertheless reached the limits of that talent. But let me start at the beginning:
Sunshine is a British/U.S. coproduction released by Fox's Searchlight Pictures, written by long term Boyle compadre Alex Garland and just recently released on DVD. It is set in the near future, in which our very own star, that very boring G type sun, suddenly and inexplicably decays. With the dieing sun threatening the whole solar system (including us) with an endless deep freeze, a team of intrepid astronauts (in the apt named Ikarus) is sent to re-ignite that life-giving fire with an enormous atomic bomb, only to fail for unknown reasons. Seven years later another crew is sent in a new ship (in the even more apt name Ikarus 2) with a new bomb to have another go before humanity is completely wiped out. Sunshine shows us the the last stage of that crew's tribulations and extinction.
Apparently the movie cost 'only' 20 million pound to make. That's the sort of money that Michael Bay spends on catering only, but not on a fully fledged motion picture. Interestingly enough, it doesn't show: the special effects are beautiful and at times breathtaking, and the production design looks quite lavish. The art director must have two favourite scifi movies that he tried to combine: while the communal quarters and tools look like taken straight out of Alien (the cubistic pitchers could have easily been handled just seconds ago by John Hurt), the whiteness and the minimalism of the extravehicular preparation bay look exactly like 2001: A Space Odyssee.
The cast is what you would call ecclectic: Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans have all had their leading roles in major productions, while Rose Byrne, Hiroyuki Sanada and Troy Garity are not quite household names. They portray their difficult characters with genuine care for their personalities and make a believable group of humans in duress.
The first two thirds of the movie are a mixture of observational study of humans under intense duress and 'calamities in space', while the last third unfortunately drifts off into a rather badly made 'Zombies in Space' B-movie and ruins the excellent impression the movie left in the beginning.
For Science Fiction and Cillian Murphy fans this is probably a worthy film, but I was appalled at the direction the script took after sixty minutes and won't recommend the flick.
Your mileage might vary.