This film is disturbing. Downright disturbing.
I've just finished watching the movie and although it has already been at least twenty minutes, I'm still having a feeling of dread in my gut that is only slowly dissipating. Well done, Danny Boyle, I have to congratulate him. Not many directors can achieve this sort of dread.
Perhaps you have already guessed it by now, so yes, this is a sci-fi horror movie. Usually, when you think of sci-fi and horror, aliens come to your mind. Or perhaps zombies. But this film doesnt have either. Unfortunately, most horror movies today build up on too much blood and violence to make the audience feel scared, and in this regard, Sunshine is a welcome change - it manages to scare you just as much (actually, "disturb" would be a better word), if not more, actually, without even having to use any of these "classic" horror elements. Rather the screenplay, camerawork and the actual concept of the film is what causes so much dread.
The movie's plot is contructed around the whole idea that our Sun is dying, and this will soon spell the doom of humanity. Being the defiant and ambitious species we are, we send the space ship ICARUS carrying an atomic bomb with a payload the size of manhattan towards to sun, in the hopes of detonating it in its atmosphere and thereby triggering a chain-reaction that will restart whatever has stopped working in the sun. Reminded me of what Aaron Eckhart & co. tried to do to the earth in the movie "The Core", except at least in "The Core", they actually put efforts into explaining the problem to the audience and trying to make it sound plausible.
Sunshine however, omits all that effort. The movie's opening line is all you get for an explanation: "Our sun is dying...and we'z gonna fix it wit dis ere bomb." Oh, and "we'll create a star within a star." Really? If you want to get philosophical, at least put some effort into it. Instead, the audience is cast headlong into at least halfway through the perilous mission of Icarus II, and spend the next half an hour trying to figure out just what the hell kind of movie they are watching. Did I say Icarus II?
Yeah...umm: shortly after Icarus enters the no-communication zone due to the proximity to the sun, nobody hears from it again, even though the mission was specifically designed to just deliver the bomb and return to the Earth. Assuming Icarus didn't succeed, Earth packs its remaining explosives into Icarus II, and sends it as their last hope. Once the audience has, in the first few minuts of the film, figured out the reason for the shape of the space ship, and has gotten to know the crew members a bit, the film picks up pace and tension as the crew members of Icarus II pick up the signal of Icarus I during a transit of Mercury, which creates a temporary zone that allows them to pick up the distress beacon.
Sci-fi horror films and distress beacons...you know where we are going, right? Truly, after this point the film gets increasingly thrilling. Thrilling, and that 'twisted-gut' feeling you get when you subconsciously expect (from past experiences of watching sci-fi movies) of something to jump at the camera from behind a dark corner, but it doesn't happen, so you don't get that release, that moment to pause and draw breath. No, SUNSHINE keeps you all cramped up in fear and anticipation from that moment onward.
Also, the whole concept that you are inside a spaceship heading towards our star, and that you need this gigantic shield to protect yourself from its unimaginable light...that purposeful hiding of the sun also gives you this feeling of dread that won't go. And unfortunately, the film gets more horrifying and more scary towards the end, till you are actually confronted with your worst fears when the mission turns into a suicide trip that shows the psychological anguish of the remaining crew members in excruciating detail, as they fall along with the bomb into the sun and, at the same time, have to face a horror that is also *inside* their ship.
Crazy. And then the credits start rolling. You're still feeling part nauseated, part agonized at the psychological horror you just had to watch. And the whole conecept of it still boggles your mind. In this regard, three full stars for a movie that makes you genuinely feel sick with fear, plus the nice panning shots of the impressive-looking Icarus spacecrafts. However, the lack of plot explanation, the ridiculousness of the whole mission (an atom bomb the size of manhattan island, which itself it just a tiny speck on the Eastern Seaboard, and thus invisible from outer space, and Earth itself is a tiny speck compared to the sun) to reignite a star? really? it's still burning, though) and several miscast characters ruin a perfect score, at least for me. A three, out of five.