Trainspotting director Danny Boyle enters a whole new dimension with this retina-ravishing, mind-bending sci-fi epic. Scripted, like 28 Days Later … by Alex Garland, it blends the intimate intensity of an ensemble drama with grand images and topical dystopian themes. So, while its conflict between arrogant science and the awe-inspiring power of the sun is staged on a cosmic scale, the film derives much of its emotional impact from the fraught group dynamics aboard the Icarus II spaceship, which is manned by a tiny crew.
In an attempt to save the frozen Earth and its inhabitants from extinction, eight astronauts and scientists set the dials for the heart of the dying sun. Attached to the Icarus II is a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan island, with which they hope to re-boot the life-giving star. But a distress signal from the Icarus I, which went missing during an abortive mission seven years before, presents the crew with a daunting moral choice.
Meanwhile the crew (Hiroyuki Sanada, Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne) career towards a potentially life-giving oblivion, Alwin Kuchler’s cinematography bathes the stunning sets in a blinding celestial light, while the CGI effects evoke the power of the glowing orb. The film owes an obvious debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running and Dark Star among others. Even so, Sunshine’s visceral power and cosmic clash between ‘big bang’ physics and religious mythology help it to achieve a mythic quality one seldom finds in parochial British cinema.