Danny Boyle’s Sunshine nearly becomes one of the best “save the world from inevitable destruction” movies ever made. Its visuals are breathtaking, its story gripping, and the performances are perfect. Then, inexplicably, the story shifts into a ridiculous and unbelievable slasher movie with no merit or excitement to carry it to the finish.
Sunshine tosses aside the usual disaster movie clichés. There are no shots of the Earth crumbling or the disaster taking place. In fact, the story doesn’t pick up until the second shot at igniting a dying sun after the first went inexplicably awry. Cilian Murphy leads a small cast nearing their destination aboard the Icarus II when things begin to fall apart after their journey.
Science is handled briefly, explaining the ins and outs of the extended space trip through a few lines of dialogue before moving on. Sunshine expects its audience to fill in the pieces. That’s fine, adding an extra sense of immersion into the story and its characters.
The small crew begins to show signs of wear as mistakes are made and people’s lives are at stake. Their emotional state wavers amidst some of the more stunning images in a space travel film to date (and on a limited budget). The travel aspects and the problems associated with it are enough to carry the film, making the sudden shift in the story more jarring than it would have been.
As the crew discovers the ship used on the original mission, they make a critical mistake and choose to investigate. What was a believable and plausible scenario suddenly becomes a goofy, confusing, bloated creature feature. The shaky, blurry camera used to hide the make-up of the sole surviving member of the original Icarus is annoying.
The script tries to turn the entire thing into some religious metaphor, and fails miserably. Final scenes drag on for what feels like an extra hour, and while the ending is satisfying visually, story-wise it collapses. It’s hard to remember an ending that falls apart on this level.
For over 75 minutes, Sunshine is a wonderful and engrossing piece of sci-fi. For that reason, it’s worth watching. Don’t expect anything from the ending as the shift happens, but you’ll have a great ride getting there. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Sunshine delivers on Blu-ray. Shots of the sun burst with bright color, and the thick, rich black levels create stunning contrast. Sharpness is high, and the overall transfer is crisp. Detail remains high throughout, and close-ups reveal an astonishing level of facial details. Color can be inconsistent, and certain scenes carry a subdued look that clashes with previous shots. This is a crisp, clean presentation overall regardless. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
DTS-HD Master delivers powerful bass whenever the Icarus comes into view. As problems begin harassing the ship, it groans, creaks, and shakes in all five channels. The effectiveness is incredible. A few atmospheric surround shots exist near the end to increase the tension appropriately. While not an all out audio assault, when it’s called on, this is a flawless audio presentation. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Extras on Sunshine are both informative and innovative. Two commentaries, one from director Danny Boyle and the second from Dr. Brian Cox from the University of Manchester offer incredible variety in terms of their topics. Twelve deleted scenes follow those with a rather mundane alternate ending and optional commentary.
A massive selection of 25 web diaries last around three minutes each, providing a fun look at the filming process. A Brilliant Vision can be viewed as a picture-in-picture feature or as separate featurettes. There are 10 in total at various lengths. The final feature (aside from trailers) is A Journey Into Sound. Here, you select one of four scenes and play around with the audio. You can position the various sound elements into a specific speaker to see how the 5.1 experience can change a scene. This is a DVD and Blu-ray first. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Extras]