Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Michelle Yeoh………. Corazon
Danny Boyle might be the best director working today who gets less merit than most of his contemporaries. Virtually every time he releases a film in the states, he gets wide praise and the film usually goes on Top 10 lists of the year. Trainspotting and Millions were both amongst the best films of the year when they were released, and yet no one really talks about Boyle as a master of his craft in the same respect that Chris Nolan and Peter Jackson are spoken of. While he may not be able to use the star power the former does, or be responsible for the highest grossing trilogy of our time like the latter, but Boyle should be spoken of in the same way. And with the science fiction thriller Sunshine, Boyle has once again crafted a film worthy of being one of the year’s best.
Sunshine has a rather intriguing premise. The sun is dying and the crew of the Icarus II is on a mission to restart it. Led by Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), the Icarus II has a payload to deliver that may or may not work. They aren’t the first attempt, as the original Icarus was lost seven years after launch. The crew is mankind’s last, best hope at saving Earth from a permanent winter. And what could easily be either a retread of some failed Aliens sequel or a generic action film like Armageddon turns into a science fiction thriller on par with the original Solaris or 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The film gets a lot of things right, but first and foremost is the physics. The film presents the actual science of what is happening in a clear and crisp manner, which is refreshing for a change. But what’s more refreshing, is that it doesn’t bend the laws of physics to make it more cinematic. The film has good physics and better science, which is always a plus as it adds a further credibility to the proceedings. Everything that happens in the film feels real in a way that Ben Affleck shooting a machine gun in space doesn’t.
Boyle is chief at creating atmosphere, which is how the film keeps being engrossing. There is no grand ceremony sending everyone into space nor is there any of the usual “disaster movie” clichÃ©s evident; Boyle wants a white-knuckle thriller and is intent on keeping it that way from the beginning. The crew is made up of scientists and cowboys, but no one is an archetype or a stereotype. They are the best and brightest available to do the job, without any of the sort of clichÃ©d baggage given to characters in this situation. They are on edge because this is a dangerous mission that will most likely kill them all, not because of some bad story arc intended to get them to their point. This is an intelligent, bone-chilling thriller that hasn’t been seen in decades for good reason: it’s hard to do well, but when it is it’s done magnificently. Everything happens for a reason and builds up to a fantastic conclusion in terms of story-line, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective if wasn’t for the film’s visual style.
The film is also filled with terrific visuals. This is a beautiful looking film that saves some of its best visuals for later on in the film. Sunshine goes for visuals that are much less trendy as opposed to iconic; Boyle knew what he was doing story-line wise and wanted the film’s top notch story to match its script. It’s the sort of visuals that are designed around the story, not the story itself. Boyle designs everything to look futuristic, obviously as the film does take place in the near future, but it doesn’t overwhelm the film as Boyle is able to use the camera effectively enough to keep the atmosphere from becoming more about the effects than about the story.
In the summer blockbuster season, a science fiction thriller that doesn’t involve space aliens or popular actors blowing something up to save the world doesn’t seem to fit in as effectively as other films do. This is thinking man’s thriller, a science fiction film that has established itself as one of the best of a decade lacking in intelligent sci-fi fare. It’s the most compelling science fiction film in quite some time and easily one of the best of the year.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):