Arts & Life


This summer, science fiction and fantasy films like "Transformers" and the latest Harry Potter have dominated movie screens. If you have a more grown-up hunger for sci-fi, this weekend you might check out "Sunshine."

Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: Brightness has never seemed as menacing as it does in "Sunshine." This nail-bitingly tense science fiction thriller emphasizes both the fearsome power of our friend, the sun, and how bereft we would be without its rays.

Screenwriter Alex Garland has given "Sunshine" a strong pulp concept. The time is the future and the sun, billions of years ahead of schedule, is dying, presenting mankind with the unpleasant threat of extinction.

(Soundbite of movie, "Sunshine")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) We have a payload to deliver to the heart of our nearest star. We're delivering that payload because that star is dying and if it dies, we die, everything dies. So that is our mission. There is nothing, literally nothing more important than completing our mission - end of story.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) He's right.

TURAN: No sooner do we meet everyone on board the spaceship Icarus - on a mission to restart the sun - then a crisis arrives, in the form of a signal from a long-lost earlier flight. No matter how the Icarus responds, audiences can be sure that anything that can possibly go wrong will do so.

(Soundbite of movie, "Sunshine")

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (As character) We have major incident. We are flying free from here.

TURAN: "Sunshine" is the latest film from British director Danny Boyle, whose eclectic resume, including "Millions," "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later," reveals a refusal to make the same film twice. This philosophy allows Boyle to bring the energy and enthusiasm of newness to each genre he tries.

"Sunshine" is a thoughtful genre film, one with philosophical concerns about God, man and morality. It's not for nothing that Icarus's talking computer echoes the iconic HAL of "2001: Space Odyssey." The film has also devoted time and effort to making the Icarus's crew into recognizable people and not Hollywood stick figures.

One of the draws of movie science fiction is always its look, and "Sunshine"'s is distinctive. Both the interior of Icarus and the exterior of deep space have a strange, unnerving aspect; an especially wonderful touch are gold lame space suits; they're the very thing Elvis would have worn if astronauting had ever come his way.

Sadly, this film eventually floats free of the plausibility that has been its anchor and falls victim to conventional plotting. "Sunshine" is too smart to be fatally wounded, but it's hard not to wish it wasn't smarter still.

WERTHEIMER: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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