The Science Fiction “Hardness” Chronicles Part Two: Sunshine

What makes it worth watching?

Sunshine is a very good film that is unfortunately a bit on the obscure side. Its marketing could have been handled better; trailers played up the parts of the story that take a turn towards horror, when in fact those sections of the film come mostly at its climax. Prior to that climax, it is a quiet, thoughtful look at how humans handle extreme situations and how the unknown can hold power over people.

The cast, which includes Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, and Michelle Yeoh amongst others, is uniformly excellent. The characters they play are an interesting kind of heroic. They clash with each other, they strain under the constraints of their closed environment, they have very different opinions about how the situations they encounter over the course of their mission are to be handled, find themselves facing some very hard, very complicated choices and when the chips are down do what they have to do to save the rest of humanity.

They are men and women of action, although their actions include more botany, complicated physics problems and dangerous maintenance work than most heroes in fiction. They are all deeply likable people, whose actions in an impossible situation make the case that their mission to save humanity is in fact a worthy one. It is a very refreshing opinion to see compared to say Avatar, where humanity is presented as generally corrupt and cruel.

Sunshine is not for everyone. It takes its time getting where it aims to get, and gets extremely intense along the way. There are several sequences, most noticeably any time a space suit is involved that are extremely suspenseful, and as mentioned above, the film takes a turn toward outright horror at its climax that may be off-putting for some. But for those who enjoy suspense, Sunshine is a rare treat.

It is a thoughtful, legitimately smart film that features some great acting, excellent special effects and a soundtrack that is to die for (the film’s iconic piece, “Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)” has gone on to see use in several other works, Kick-Ass and The Walking Dead to name two). If it sounds like a good night, check Sunshine out, it is well worth the watch.

Correction: The sun runs on a nuclear process, not a chemical one.  The article has been changed to reflect that.