DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Steve Harwood's film review of Sunshine

The extras on this disc are, like the sunshine, pretty brilliant. Danny Boyle is the type of bloke who always seems to have plenty of energy to spare and he brings his enthusiasm to his excellent commentary track of the film. Right from the off, it’s interesting, as he points out that, for the first time ever, the 20th Century Fox ident runs backwards, which, he adds, no one ever notices. The reason, he says just goes to show that 70 per cent of what makes up cinema is sound and, because the music is still running the right way, audiences just don’t spot it.

It’s this kind of thoughtful insight that peppers the track. He happily talks about his colour motivations – blues inside the ship versus the yellows of the sun outside – the pacing – “with sci-fi you have to be patient - and the key three elements of a space film – “A ship. A crew. A signal”.

Copy picture

There’s plenty more to get your teeth into, including the difficulties of making the cast look in the right direction, how easy it is to interchange shots of people’s eyes when they’re in close up, the influence of Kenny from South Park and why hamsters are key to the CG of the film.

There is just one moment which non-British audiences may find a little confusing, when Boyle refers to the Zebrugge. Those of a certain age in the UK will know instantly that he is referring to the 1987 ferry disaster, when the Herald Of Free Enterprise capsized killing 187 – and he does make it a little clearer elsewhere on the disc – but a more worldwide audience may be left scratching their heads.

The second commentary on the disc is equally engaging. Those confused by the mention of Brian Cox in the DVD description need to put away all thoughts of the gruff Scots actor of the same name. This is Dr Brian Cox, erstwhile member of D:Ream turned top physicist, who was a scientific consultant on the film. He describes the “tension between making a movie and getting the science right” and provides a beginner’s guide to much of the technology used. Like the sun and Boyle, he is also full of energy and even finds time to talk about things that may be possible in the future, offering a £10 bet to listeners.

Also included on the disc are deleted scenes – all of which could have easily been left in, although Boyle explains why he chose to excise them. Interestingly, some are unfinished, giving you the chance to appreciate how good the acting on display is, when you see the basic green screen sets they were having to work with.

The other most substantial extra is a raft of 23 brief production diaries, talking to everyone from Director of Photography Alwin Kuchler to the cast, the technical crew and stunt team, plus a pilot who takes the cast to zero gravity and their reactions afterwards. The only notable omission is any contribution by the writer Alex Garland, but it certainly doesn’t stop others talking about his writing. Each segment is around two minutes long and fascinating. Much more entertaining than the usual ‘making of’ gush fests.

Also included are the obligatory trailers and, in a great move that will hopefully be emulated on other discs, there are also two short films by up-and-coming directors. Hats off to Danny Boyle for thinking of this, as he is right, DVDs of major films should offer an opportunity to showcase the best of the new guys coming through. He has chosen pretty well here, with Chris Shepherd’s Dad’s Dead, reviewed previously elsewhere on this site. He also includes Mole Hills by Dan Arnold, a more experimental piece but which displays sharp editing and a good ear for a soundscape.

The sound and picture are all you could want and hard of hearing film fans will be delighted to learn that, for once, everything on the disc, with the exception of the trailers, is fully subtitled (with only one or two spelling errors).

All in all Fox have put together a glowing package – definitely in my top five favourite DVD releases this year.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2007
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Sunshine packshot
Astronauts are sent to try to save earth by reigniting the sun.
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Product Code: 3230501000

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Director's commentary, commentary with physicist Dr Brian Cox, deleted scenes with director's commentary, trailers, 23 production diaries, Mole Hills (directed by Dan Arnold), Dad's Dead (directed by Chris Shepherd)

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