2007 ‧ Science fiction film/Thriller ‧ 1h 47m
In the not-too-distant future, Earth’s dying sun spells the end for humanity. In a last-ditch effort to save the planet, a crew of eight men and women ventures into space with a device that could revive the star. However, an accident, a grave mistake and a distress beacon from a long-lost spaceship throw the crew and its desperate mission into a tailspin.
Initial release: April 5, 2007 (Hong Kong)
Director: Danny Boyle
Budget: 23 million USD
Screenplay: Alex Garland
Music composed by: John Murphy, Underworld
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)….
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.
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.
This film has a great score, John Murphy is a God tier composer.