Ten years later, ‘Sunshine’ remains one of the bleakest and most beautiful sci-fi movies ever made
The first time I saw Sunshine, it was in a movie theater packed with awkward men (in my memory, the audience was at least 90 percent male). When the movie ended, my friend and I spent an extra 10 minutes on the floor, trying to find his misplaced glasses.
Despite the sub-optimal viewing conditions, I remember feeling genuinely thrilled by what I’d seen. Sunshine, it seemed to me, was pointing to a promising new direction for science fiction film.
It was the second collaboration between director Danny Boyle, screenwriter Alex Garland and star Cillian Murphy. Their first, 28 Days Later, had been a surprising success. In addition to reinventing and revitalizing the zombie movie, it showed how low-budget, handheld filmmaking could be used to blend science fiction and horror in a way that was both emotionally compelling and scary as hell.
And although it was more science fictional than 28 Days Later, with a larger budget, Sunshine still seemed very much like a spiritual successor, bringing the same indie approach to outer space.
Sadly, any hopes about the film’s broader impact quickly faded. After its release in the summer of 2007, Sunshine underperformed globally, making only $32 million (compared to the $85 million earned by 28 Days Later), with a paltry $3.6 million in the U.S. One of the actors, future Captain America Chris Evans, started bringing it up in interviews as an example of how no one had seen his “good” movies. And while Boyle, Garland and Murphy have each had their subsequent successes, they haven’t made another film together.
Still, Sunshine may be the movie I’ve rewatched most in the decade since then. Usually, when I mention it in conversation, people just stare at me blankly, but once in a while, someone’s eyes will light up and they’ll say, “Oh my God, I love that movie!” (One of the greatest moments of my life was briefly geeking out about it with Oscar Isaac, who auditioned for a role in Sunshine and was subsequently cast in Garland’s Ex Machina.)
The movie seems to be remembered fondly outside my social circle, too — it was included in a recent “10 years later” screening series at my neighborhood movie theater, and it just appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century (at least 30 spots too low, but still)….Source
GarbageDay23: Another example of why you don’t investigate a distress signal in space
zippazippo: inb4 everyone starts complaining about the third act.
NabiscoShredderWheat: A huge part of this is because of John Murphy’s utterly gorgeous score.
arshaqV: The subliminal images when they board the Icarus 1 was really creepy
NickyMcNikolai: I love this movie, even with the awkward third act. Visually stunning from start to finish, and even with its flaws it still leaves me satisfied. Excellent performances by budding stars too.
juche: Possibly not news, but…Robert Capa is also the name of a famous war photographer, perhaps best known for his shot of a soldier being hit in the head by a bullet. Some question its authenticity, but it is famous anyway.
Nicholarse_Angle: This film has a great score, John Murphy is a God tier composer.
Eiredditor: I love how the film dealt with loneliness, paranoia, frustration, shame, guilt, obsession, dedication, desperation, terror and madness. The third act is a jolt, and of questionable quality. But the climax is head spinning. Its a gorgeous movie and kudos to all involved.
ridger5: It’s daylight savings time!
PeterMikael: I was surprised by how slow-moving the film is and I loved how the film turns into a depressing slasher set in space midway through the movie. It’s very atmospheric and solemn. Like 28 Days Later but slower.
I do feel many of the characters are thinly drawn. Aside from Cillian Murphy’s character, none of the characters are fully developed. They just exist so when one by one begins to be killed off, you don’t care. Especially the female characters (Michelle Yeoh and Rose Byrne) who barely do anything. All Byrne does in the movie is cry and her big moment happens off-screen.
CH_GOROG: I would argue that it really isn’t bleak. Contemplative about the end of life, maybe, but I don’t think it really has a bleak perspective on the future or humanity. I’d say movies like Children of Men, Dredd, Blade Runner, Never Let Me Go, Alien, Pitch Black, ARQ, District 9, The Matrix, Snowpiercer, and 12 Monkeys are bleaker than “Sunshine”.
undead77: Plus dat OST.
DragonPup: If ‘dying sun’ stories and bleak futures are genres you like, you might want to check out the graphic novel series [*Low: The Delirium of Hope* by Rick Remender](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_(comics)).
Basically the sun is in the expanding part of it’s death so humanity had to go under the sea thousands of years ago to escape the surface radiation while they sent probes to try to find habitable planets.
phlprtr: I liked Sunshine until it devolved into a predictable (#SPOILER)horror movie, towards the end. I think they could have found a better way to resolve that conflict than having some knife wielding psycho running around. Aside from that it was pretty good.
Duskmourne: I know most people complain about about the third act, but that’s not what bothered me honestly. I found this movie fails in the same way as the last Alien movie.
These people are supposedly humanity’s last hope yet are completely incompetent. For instance they KNOW when their comm’s are going to stop working due to the distance, yet all of them are vying to use them the last possible hour? Really?
The whole sun-viewing room annoys me to no end as well. The psychiatrist turns down the dimming feature and then proceeds to put on sunglasses? WHAT?! It’s just so nonsensical for a movie that’s obviously trying to be serious.
Angry_Foamy: John Murphy nailed that score as well. Especially the unforgettable Kaneda II piece.
Delta_Assault: Everything was going great right up until that third act…
shushravens: I have listened to adagio in dminor so many times, that score is fantastic. I actually found the song first and decided to watch the movie…. I originally ally thought it was a happy song….
Butane_: $3.6mil in the US, $36mil globally. I remember seeing it in the theater. We saw it at the Cumberland theater, the only screen showing it in all of Toronto. Shame it didn’t have a bigger release.
shphunk: That music though, makes you shed a tear.
snakeybasher: One of my favorite movies
RedditConsciousness: It is a beautiful piece of work by Danny Boyle that is seriously flawed though in an interesting way. I don’t hate the movie, but I understand why some do.
VoDKaReBel: I think it would have been more interesting to have had some mysterious benevolent force stop them and reveal they also stopped the original Icarus, because “destiny” etc.
I remember reading an early synopsis and the film was meant to have a supernatural element but they obviously decided to go the slasher route instead.
Spiritofchokedout: It’s beautiful, the score is excellent, it has a wonderful cast…
… but the science is shoddy and the third act is very “eh”
Soontir_Fel: Can’t give this movie my blessing, total missed opportunity, at no point did anyone utter the phrase, “It’s daylight saving time.”
NabiscoShredderWheat: The people who complain about the third act just can’t think in the abstact. It’s okay.
richieclare: I absolutely would never watch Sunshine again. The slow burn as you wait for something to happen – which you know is going to be terrible because it’s a film about people travelling to the sun – is not something I want to experience again. Pretty much the most tense I’ve been watching a film. So it’s great because it moved me. Suprise third act is a Boyleism but the first part still has me on edge thinking about it. This goes down as a good movie but not one I’d recommend watching 🙂
Doc_McCoyXYZ: One of the most overrated sci fi movies of all time. I don’t know what everyone is talking about. What fucking hyperbole.