Sunshine starts with a none-too-original end-of-the-world scenario - the sun is dying. It follows the crew of an ill-fated spaceship that aims to kick-start our source of light and heat with a bomb the size of Manhattan. An accelerating sense of inevitable doom accompanies the heroes, interspersed with a sense of wonder at sights such as Mercury crossing the sun, and a twist ending which strains continuity and any lingering hopes of originality or believability.

But firstly the good bits. Special effects are stunning. Literally. It's as if Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey had risen from the archives, imbued with every wonder known to modern technology and NASA video footage. It is so visually awesome that if I watched it again it would be with earplugs so I could enjoy it without distraction.

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And the distraction is legion. If we have moved into an era where no-one hears you scream in space, apparently director Danny Boyle has not been told. An overpowering, constantly intrusive soundtrack provides wooshes, whistles, rumbles and imaginative electronic audio sensations for every piece of action, inside or outside the craft. Lugubrious editing justifies each fresh thunderous boom, for we are invited to admire every beautifully created visual sensation for rather longer than the weak plot on its own can sustain.

Characters are so underdeveloped that I constantly searched for someone to care about. One girl (who looks barely out of college) takes a momentary stand to save the life of one of her fellow astronauts, so I rooted for her to survive. Most of these astronauts I would not have let loose on my nephew's model train set, much less a PlayStation or - heaven forbid - a spaceship. That Boyle and writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later...) are totally out of their depth becomes clear as they throw some naff religious psychosis into the mix. Scientists saving earth? I'd rather trust a poodle. Not that we are ever told why the ship needs to be manned in the first place.

Even if the acting was above the barely passable, the script offers little scope. And the spaceship is named Icarus. That's a bit like building an ocean liner and calling it Sinker.

Danny Boyle enjoyed the limelight with Shallow Grave and then achieved well-deserved international fame with Trainspotting. He has been quoted as saying "Once you've had anything like a hit in the movie business it's so easy to get lost. All these people are scuttling around trying to get you to make things, suggesting things and offering deals. The pressure of what to do next is horrible." Pressure or not, it would seem his choices have been increasingly poor. From a movie that that set new standards in its incisive portrayal of Scottish drug addicts, he has dabbled in areas where his weaknesses are all too glaringly obvious. Gone is the annoying DV format which looked irritatingly grainy in the similarly dystopian 28 Days Later: Sunshine is visually dazzling. But whereas the cross-genre attempts in his earlier sci-fi still retained many fans, this lacklustre effort seems set to reduce them. A waste of consummate artwork and photography, Sunshine ultimately needs more than a giant bomb to make it enjoyable.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2007
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Astronauts are sent to try to save earth by reigniting the sun.
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Read more Sunshine reviews:

Steve Harwood *****
Jennie Kermode ***

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Alex Garland

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Troy Garity, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh

Year: 2007

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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2001: A Space Odyssey
Event Horizon