Review: Sunshine (2007)

How are so many talented people involved in something so bad?

This starts off so promisingly: a cast of wonderful actors in a claustrophobic, existential pressure-cooker in space, where a considerable amount of the film’s tension is static generated by rubbing against the horror and dystopian science fiction tropes it gives us credit for bringing to the viewing experience, but without actually going there. But then in its final act, the film can’t help itself and just goes there. It not only feels like exactly the move a less-accomplished hack filmmaker would need to resort to, in Sunshine it feels like the only way out from underneath all the big ideas that were beginning to pile up. It’s a cheap letdown, and disappointing because it didn’t have the courage or conviction to live up to its own ambition.

How does this happen? Well, I’m not sure how good a track record director Danny Boyle actually has. I assume, perhaps because he’s prolific across a wide range of genres, that he’s solid – but is he really? Trainspotting and Shallow Grave are the only ones I remember fondly. 127 Hours I found myself unable to watch whole sections of (which I guess means he made it well?). But then I remember that he made 28 Days Later (cool concept, amateur execution), Slumdog Millionaire (problematic), The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary (the less said there, the better), and the misses begin to outnumber the hits.

A similar case could perhaps be made for / against Francis Ford Coppola – but his hits live on a whole other level than the sum total of Boyle’s, and that’s a discussion worthy of its own post (or series of them). But like Coppola, Boyle takes risks, and that’s worthy of respect. From film to film, he leaps dramatically between genres, styles and concepts. There’s no trademark style tying his films together, aside from an overall boldness – but I wonder if that’s actually, or at least symptomatic of, a lack of taste? Good on him, I guess?