after a tragicomic series of mishaps, elaine and i finally managed to see Sunshine, the latest effort by director Danny Boyle (Millions, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later). i was a huge fan of both Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, and so have been very eager to experience Boyle’s take on the sci-fi genre.

and so, after all our trials and tribulations with seeing this film, was the wait worth it?

yes. mostly.

the film is a visual spectacle, with gorgeous cinematography and composition, eye-popping space visuals worthy of the best NASA CG animations, and some nuanced, compelling performances. it’s just a feast to watch, and for the first hour plus, we were all riveted in our seats. cillian murphy turns in another fantastic performance, and the cast that supports are equally top-notch. the writing is where things go south with this film, sadly, even with the experienced hands of Alex Garland at the helm.

the film is clearly intended to be thinking-person’s sci-fi, with ruminations on god, sun as giver and taker of life, death, and basic human frailty. the sun becomes a metaphor for god, and the film does a pretty good job of exploring this territory. at the same time, on a more literal level, it does a great job of exploring some of the real challenges (both physical and mental) associated with long-term space travel. pacing, acting, script – they all work in lock-step for the first hour of the film, gradually building a sense of foreboding and tension.

sadly, somewhere near the last half hour, the film pretty much jumps the shark, as things descend into a space-based horror flick a la Event Horizon (which i hated with a vibrant, mouth-frothing passion).
why did Boyle and Garland take this route, is my big question? to make it more palatable to an action-oriented crowd? clearly, that didn’t work, since the film only grossed about $3.5MM (much of which i attribute to horrendous marketing). more intellectual fare like Soderbergh’s Solaris was less well-received critically speaking, yet still managed to make $15MM at the box office.

so, i wound up with mixed feelings about the film. i loved many aspects of it, and will watch it again, but hated the facile and ham-fisted way they chose to end it. danny and alex: i expected more from you.

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