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Dark days are coming. 

Year: 2007 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Danny Boyle 
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh  
An image from Sunshine

The capacity to transform the dark, the unbeautiful, and the nitty-gritty into a skilfully crafted spectacle is what underpins Danny Boyle’s directorial ability. What sets Sunshine apart from his other creations (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) is the creeping psychological element that carries forth this film; Boyle presents the gradual undoing of each protagonist as they bask in the glow of a beautiful yet menacing sun.

Hurtling through outer space on a quest to reignite the dying Sun, armed with an on-board nuclear payload the size of Manhattan, a team of astronauts must detonate a bomb on the sun’s surface. A dying sun means a dying Earth, and they are the planet’s last hope. Caught between the beauty and the solitude of outer space, and haunted by the memory of the failed mission before them, ‘Icarus I’, their journey becomes a struggle of fear and sanity. Cillian Murphy captures the dilemma of embracing both heroism and their ultimate duty - what is effectively a suicide mission - while Chris Evans provides the rugged, all-American action figure that blockbusters like this delight in having.

Stylistically, Sunshine owes much to the classics of sci-fi that have preceded it. The subtle camerawork, the lurking shadows and a pervasive sense of danger and destruction are testament to the enduring power of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s Alien. Yet where Boyle comes into his own, and with real success, is undoubtedly in the film’s visual element. Boyle’s creativity is epitomised through his conception of a stunning solar landscape. The sheer saturation of colour cinematographically holds this film apart from others of its genre.

Sunshine reaches a fine balance between traditional science fiction, action and psychological thriller and should be regarded as a visual masterpiece.

Nikita Shah

Blasted into the freezing vacuum of space on a desperate mission to save the Earth, a brilliant team of astronauts hope to rekindle the sun’s dying embers by detonating a massive bomb on the star’s surface. Having stripped the Earth of all its precious materials in order to construct the explosive, the success of the Icarus II (their ship) really is the last hope of the human race that the crew have left behind. The pressure created by the absolute necessity of their success is unrelentingly palpable; as they head directly toward the sun, the astronauts struggle against the unimaginable temperature extremes of space, the silence of dead zones incommunicable by Earth and, most sinisterly, against each other.

Thrilling, intelligent and visually astounding, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) directs Sunshine as an inspiring film that still maintains all the delicious terror of space-based sci-fi. So whilst the film shows the beauty and isolation of space in the same way as Solaris, the dark corridors of the ship and the impending sense of disaster are reminiscent of the Alien series. Excited yet? You should be. The terrifying pace of Sunshine allows you no moment of ease, and Boyle’s latest film, as a psychological thriller, absolutely surpasses 28 Days Later.

Yet, though the gripping twists of Sunshine’s plot ensure that the audience remain unbelievably tense throughout its 107 minutes, the most impressive facet of this film is undoubtedly its visual accomplishment. The terrifying heat and light of the sun, so utterly capable of instantaneously blinding and destroying the crew (were they not protected by the ship’s incredible heat-shield), is generated as an awe-inspiring force to be revered for its beauty and power.

Sunshine is a film about human vulnerability against the infinities of space. It is no fairytale, but it will leave you in awe of the sun’s immense power and your dependence upon it.

Hannah Davies

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Autumn Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Spring Term (35mm)