Science-fiction intimidates me. Not of the Trek or Star Wars variety, but the intelligent kind that seem to require you have a PHD in molecular biology to understand. I don’t know if being a molecular biologist would even qualify one to expound on space time physics, quantum linear astrology or sky radiation planets. That random lotto combination of occupation and terms is complete gibberish, but I don’t have the patience right now to Google molecular biology, let alone open a Dune novel by Frank Herbert to crib his thoughts about the significance of sandworms, which is pretty much the only thing I remember about the 1985 movie Dune.
I did, however, take time to do a Google search for the most complicated science fiction films and I was linked to this list of the 15 smartest science fiction movies of all time.
The list includes blockbusters like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Great visuals, Matthew McConaughey was assured as ever, but like the dog in Pixar’s Up, my ADHD brain cried “squirrel” every time the movie shifted timelines. Apparently, the concept of string theory is more than just a children’s parlor trick.
Number one on the list is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Until two months ago It remained unseen by me. I purchased a Blu-Ray edition years ago and stacked it in my collection as if it were one of those classic novels that looks good on a bookshelf. Melville’s Moby Dick gets taken advantage of quite a bit.
2001 got shelved alongside other notable classics. I just never got around to films like Nashville, West Side Story or King Kong (1939), but they were waiting for me. Each of them leaned against other great films. Ones I did, indeed, see: (Jackie Brown, The Karate Kid and We Bought a Zoo). Seriously, We Bought a Zoo is amazing. Any movie with Marvel’s Black Widow playing a passionate zoologist has got to be great, right? Scarlett Johansen is so versatile. Is there anything she can’t do?!
I could say I never got around to seeing these films because life got in the way, but sometime a person just wants to watch Sonic: The Hedgehog. A priority of the highest order. (Full disclosure: seeing Sonic was part of a gentlemen’s agreement. I agreed to watch the blue fuzzy guy and my friend agreed to watch Best Picture Oscar winner, Parasite. I held my end of the bargain; he has yet to see Parasite. NEWS FLASH… Parasite is better.)
While under quarantine, I did finally see King Kong. Its story’s power held up well. “Tis beauty killed the beast”, and all that. In my collection, it is currently nuzzled against The Karate Kid. I now humbly submit to you the following argument: Daniel LaRusso would totally wipe the floor with Kong. Mind you, he’d have to “sweep the leg” to do it, but Kong wouldn’t see it coming. “No mercy!”.
Back to 2001. I knew that upon its original release, people attended weekly screenings. They’d go to the front of the auditorium, lay down face up on the floor and trip out on acid for the next two hours and 15 minutes.
I’d seen pieces of it. I was familiar with the image of an ape making a mess clubbing bone carcass. He didn’t even pick up after himself! Then there was the final image of a poor fetus trapped inside a planet. What does it all mean?!
Recently I saw that a local theatre was screening it. A special engagement for one weekend only. I was going to see “THE GREATEST SCI-FI MOTION PICTURE EVER MADE… DIRECTED BY THE GREATEST DIRECTOR OF ALL TIME… THE MOST WHOLLY TRANSCENDENT, SPIRITUAL FILM EXPERIENCE OF ALL TIME”. Not a direct quote, but surely someone, somewhere in an expansive universe had to have said it. A universe where a star child could be watching us all, right?
The movie started. I watched. Things happened. An ape discovered a pile of bones. A single bone became man’s first tool. That very tool, an object that could end a life. He throws the tool in the air. The image dissolves into a space satellite in orbit. Of course, man-made technology! I assumed the film was only a collection of abstract images. Something I had to decode that felt like homework. Then, the second monolith appeared. I didn’t know there was a plot!
I did the deed. Now, I could call something Kubrickian the correct way in everyday conversation.
WRONG USAGE: “I love your pretty, hazel eyes. They’re very Kubrickian.”
CORRECT USAGE: “Her cold and horrific beauty stared at me with those Kubrickian eyes.”
I can waltz into a convenience store, stop short of setting off the sensors to the automatic sliding door and command “open the pod bay doors, HAL”. The door slides open. I walk in. I look super cool doing it.
The next time somebody asks me if I know what the name H.A.L. really stands for, I can give them a sly look and say… “Macintosh”. We will laugh. It will be the best joke. “But seriously, do you know?” I walk away.
I digress. The entire list referencing 2001 as the smartest sci-fi film of all time was full of titles that I’d avoided. Number 8 was Sunshine and, as luck would have it, was recently recommended to me by my editor, JaceSon.
[Editor’s Note – I didn’t so much “recommend” the film as I did actually force Danny to watch it for this Series. Now I have to come through on my end of the deal with a piece on Micki & Maude – JaceSon]
The recommendation was extended as a friendly challenge, a dare of sorts. One with good intentions. The concept is this: recommend a film that you love to a member of the writing staff. It must be one they haven’t seen, then they write about it.
Risky when you consider this website’s sole purpose is offering suggestions of great movies forgotten. If I don’t like it, I could be thrown in movie jail where I will probably only be allowed to watch JaceSon’s favorite Adam Sandler movie, The Waterboy. However, on this site he has recommended such worthy treasures as In A Lonely Place, Sounder, and Matchstick Men. Not a single dud in the bunch. But as you’ve already deduced, this is a science fiction film and a flip of a coin will determine this movie’s fate (see all the above). This could go bad quickly, but I want to keep writing for Movie Treasures so I will be a good sport. “You can do it!”
Released in 2007, Sunshine was directed by Danny Boyle after he already made his mark with Trainspotting and 27 Days Later. He’s a renaissance director that’s tackled seemingly every genre: family films, thrillers, the biopic, fantasy, and zombie horror. All with his signature style of fast jump edits and clarity of composition, bright lens photography and high energy; each distinctly different from the next.
At this point of writing this review, I have yet to see Sunshine (exceptions of some editing). Consider it an experiment. I will be writing this review as the film unfolds in real time. A play by play of experiencing it for the first time.
Brace yourselves everyone. Mister Barrus, do your worst.
The Movie Trailer:
The first image is of a blazing sun. Then, an image of the Scarecrow from Batman Begins. He plays Robert Capa then tells us that the sun is in trouble and the end is nigh. I think this is going to be a rescue mission where the sun is the damsel in distress.
Bold lettering tells us that this is the “ULTIMATE MISSION”, but something goes awry. Director Danny Boyle is the main draw. Captain America pops up. Michelle Yeoh from Crazy Rich Asians is in it too. She was the Crouching Tiger or the Hidden Dragon in the Ang Lee film. Oh, yes, and Scarecrow wants to reignite the sun. This looks promising.
Observations watching the film.
- This is a Fox Searchlight movie. Seeing their logo always gives me assurance that I won’t be disappointed.
Scarecrow gives us the same spiel as the trailer. So far, the movie lives up to its title. There is going to be a lot of sun. The title card is blinding.
- Dr. Searle is getting briefed by his AI computer frame. She refilters his observation report. The sun is shining at only 2 percent of its brightness.
- Dr. Searle is a bit of a daredevil. He engages in some sort of chicken race with the sun in a staring contest. Put on those sunglasses, Dr. Searle. That will help. He smiles. Searle: 1, Sun: 0.
- We meet some of the eight crew members; one of them is the short order cook. Nobody likes his chicken.
- Did you know you can float in darkness because it is the absence of something? Apparently, it is so light that you can become the darkness. Side Note: I recently experienced being inside of a sensory deprivation tank. Halfway submerged in water, it has this feeling of not knowing where your skin meets the surface of the water.
- Five minutes in and I am already proving to be too immature for these high-level concepts.
- The solar wind reading is much higher than expected. High frequency winds will cause something to burst. The crew is 55 million miles from earth. They have 24 hours to complete their mission. It is a race against time.
- Capa mansplains to his parents that it takes eight minutes for light to travel from sun to earth. There is much exposition.
- I’m going to take a break now and reset. If I don’t return to this blog entry it will be because I have entered the “dead zone”.
- Crouching Tiger says there is an oxygen shortage.
- Captain America is on edge. He picks a fight with Capa. He wins but vows never to lose track again. I get the feeling that he is itching to go to them gym and further achieve his manscaping goal.
- Some dude describes the beauty of an asteroid storm. Although it seems to wreak havoc in the universe, he seems to get his kicks from this disaster.
- Everyone abruptly stops doing their work and they marvel at planet mercury. It revolves around the sun. They bask in its glow. Does Mercury travel that fast? It seems that Mercury has a high iron content.
- Lives are at stake on the Icarus I. There is an ethical debate on whether they should save the lives of the 8 people onboard. I think they need to sling shot themselves around mercury’s orbit so they can change their trajectory. There is a payload of materials to drop off. They must save the blazing star. These are tough decisions. Thank goodness there is a physicist on board.
- The Martian with Matt Damon owes much to the plot of this film and Sunshine owes everything to the greatness that is Airplane II: The Sequel.
- Dr. Searle is at it again. He stares down the sun, this time wearing sun goggles. He must have a death wish or he’s just that freaking cool. Searle: 2, Sun: 0.
- Kapp’s success with the sun is the exact opposite. It haunts his dreams. His girlfriend Carrie too has been down this road. “Every time I shut my eyes. It’s always the same”. I have this same reaction when I think about the weight of the world bearing down on me. I’M JUST ONE MAN. THERE ARE TOO MANY STARS TO COUNT. THE CONSTELLATIONS WILL HAVE TO WAIT. I CAN’T SAVE THEM ALL!
- What the hell Trey! Why didn’t you reset the shields?! You had ONE JOB! Enough of your petty excuses. We have velocities and fuel calculations of our own to deal with. Keep it together man!
- I’m not impressed with Captain America. He volunteers Capa on special death mission but elects to stay behind. This is not how you earn yourself a spot in the Marvel Universe.
- Carrie needs as much shadow as she can get her hands on. Wait a minute. We already learned that darkness is the absence of something. There is literally nothing she can gain from this. Why? Only the shadow knows
- Danny Boyle knows how to film an action sequence. There is nothing obligatory when the crew resets the shields. It never feels staged. The moving images of the sun’s reflection against the shuttle is both harrowing and beautiful. The sequence is full of quick cuts transitioning between roughly 8 different points of view. Boyle held my attention with visual clarity that somehow managed to feel both improvisational and purposeful.
- In a short amount of time, Boyle makes us care about characters that we barely know.
- NOOOOOOOOO! There isn’t enough oxygen to breathe.
- Change of plans. They’re coming for you Icarus I. Be prepared to be their sloppy seconds.
- Split second flickers of what looks like the image of a mad man.
- With no context, this is The Shining meets 2001. Kubrick on top of Kubrick. Double decker, baby.
- “80% of all dust is human skin”. Well, s**t. I’m allergic to dust. Cue wind. Kansas, is that all we are?
- The sun’s glow on the ship is beautiful.
- Captain America finally mans up. He’s been holding out on us. The expelled gases and pressurized air locks have got him pretty hyped up.
- Captain America has ideas.
- Dr. Searle offers himself as tribute. The man is on fire! Searle: 2, Sun: 1.
- No one noticed that Harvey was gone until now. Did I miss him? Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure he’s a rabbit. I am reevaluating my affinity for all things Jimmy Stewart. Why has Jimmy never been in a science fiction flick. I will now let my editor fact-check me by posting an image that proves me wrong.
[Editor’s Note – I mean, I suppose Harvey the rabbit could be real, who knows. And I suppose that could be somewhat supernatural…maybe? But Jimmy Stewart and outright science fiction? Yeah, no. – JaceSon]
- Capa is really jonesing to deliver the payload. He’s beginning to sound like Raymond from Rain Man. Of course, we’ve got to deliver the payloads. Deliver the payloads. We’ve got to deliver the payloads. It’s 15 hours til’ we can drop off the payloads.
- Ms. Mainframe breaks the news to him gently, but they won’t be able to drop off the payloads.
- There is an uninvited guest from Icarus. He’s chillin’ in the observation deck. His name is Pinbacker. I don’t like his name. I shall call him Linebacker.
- Capa does not like company. Get off my lawn!
- Captain America and Scarecrow have been at odds this entire time. They are now having some serious bro-time. I love it when people take the time to hug it out.
- Hidden Dragon, excuse me, Crouching Tiger holds in her hand some greenery leaves mixed in with her own blood. Me thinks there is symbolism there. Vegetation and the lifeline or a eucalyptus plant with healing powers?
- Now Captain America wants to separate the payloads. A last-ditch effort. This is not a good idea.
There’s a lot of things going on with pod bay doors. HAL from 2001 was a lightweight.
- Linebacker is making himself at home. I’m getting a whole Daft Punk kind of vibe from. Retro pop group Daft Punk broke up recently. Now I am sad.
- Cassie? Cassie?! Where did you go?
- They are flying into the sun. We do it for Searle, man, we do it for Searle!
- Linebacker is relentless. Nothing’s gonna stop him. Cue Starship song.
- Cassie gives Kap the ultimate challenge, “finish it”. Sweep the leg! I had to work in that The Karate Kid reference one more time.
- Capa continues to double-down on Dr. Searle’s life’s work, only this time he gets to touch it. Dude. Stop it. That was Searle’s thing. Don’t take sun staring away from Dr. Searle!
- Capa’s family is proud, but what they really want to do is go bobsledding in Australia. Is that snow covering the Sydney Opera House?
- End Credits
- Alex Garland wrote this! The writer-director of Ex Machina and Annihilation!
- Were the visual flashes a memory or glimpses into the future?
- I’m pretty sure there was a family barbecue. It had to have been a family barbecue. This is the Fast and Furious of sci-fi films.
- Were there 7 crew members or 8?
- Was Linebacker a God?
- It opened with the sun. It closed with the eye of the sun.
- I have deep thoughts.
Sunshine was very entertaining. I understood none of the science behind its ideas, but it did not matter. The story of a mission gone awry is nothing new, but the filmmakers and actors behind it were all so very committed to the telling of it.
I will always have an aversion to diving head-first into a science (heavy) fiction film, but I am also intrigued by movies that are smarter than me. I don’t mind feeling dumb walking out of a movie theater, because I’m still smart enough to know a good movie when I’ve seen it.
JaceSon Barrus. Mission complete.
⭐ For more information on where to Buy, Rent, or Stream Sunshine, click here for the Sunshine JustWatch page.