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Sunshine: Cillian Murphy is the new God

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Image Amidst the universal discussion of global warming, Danny Boyle presents us with a film that talks about global cooling: Sunshine. The year is 2050, the sun is dying (it’s not dead already, take note of this!) and the last hope of saving mankind lies with the spaceship “Icarus II” and the bomb it is carrying. Everybody who expects the usual run-of-the-mill sci-fi thriller now will be grossly disappointed. Everybody who expects a beautiful, gripping and thoughtful study of people and light will have a blast.


First of all, yes, we all know the sun isn’t supposed to die for another 5 billion years or so. This is why the reason for the sun shining less than it is supposed to in this movie is actually a Q-ball flying into the sun and disrupting its function. But it’s not really made a topic, because it doesn’t matter. The bomb the “Icarus II” has onboard is of the size of Manhattan and contains all the fissionable material left on Earth. The very last chance, since the “Icarus I”, on the same mission seven years prior, disappeared and no one knows what happened to it.

Of course on the mission to the sun a lot of things go wrong–how could it be any other way? But the beauty starts here, because all the things that do go wrong are believable things and not completely fetched out of thin air. Shortly before the “Icarus II” enters into the communication “dead zone”, they receive the emergency signal from the “Icarus I”. Apparently the ship didn’t burn in the sun, but is floating around helpless in outer space not far from them.

This is where we get into the internal struggle. The crew has to decide whether or not to check on the crew of “Icarus I” and in consequence they may damage their own ship and need to repair it while dangerously close to the sun, lose their oxygen supply, lose crew members (to insanity among other things) and get into moral debates about the value of one single life compared to the rest of humanity. See the pitfalls of our fearless spacemen?

I don’t want to give away too much of the story, since this film hits theaters only in September in the US, but I can comment on the overall beauty of the film. Suspend your disbelief about how close they could actually be to the sun or how bad gravity would be or whatever and just revel in the pictures.

Danny Bole has given us movies like Trainspotting, The Beach and 28 Days Later. Sure, not all of those were content-wise a hit, but he sure does have a hand for picture composition and Sunshine is his best work to date in that respect. Light reflects off the lens distracting us from the actual “action” on screen, angles aren’t the way we are used to, the picture stops for a second every now and then, faces of the other astronauts flash in between frames so quickly you almost think it was a mirage. It is one gorgeous visual pleasure watching Sunshine. Of course, the sun in itself fascinates us and provides the most awesome shots voluntarily. But the oxygen garden they have in the middle of the ship is just as eye-pleasing as the sun slowly illuminating the heat shield.

And another thing is pleasing to see: Cillian Murphy. We all know him as the bad guy in Batman Begins or Red Eye, but this Irish actor is something else in Sunshine. His icy blue eyes, usually associated with coldness in his killer roles, here have a child-like view on things. He plays Capa, the physicist on the “Icarus II”, the one responsible to set off the bomb, and yet he seems so helpless, so beautifully lost out there in space. There are several scenes where members of the crew wrap him in the space suit (which they wouldn’t have to, Captain Kaneda does it all himself) so he can go out into space or on a special mission. And every time he just looks out at them, amazed they put his life before theirs many times, because he is the most valuable, no one else knows how to handle the bomb, and he just doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t understand any of it. Not the concept of God, not the moral discussion about the value of life. All he wants to see is how his bomb forms a new star right before his eyes. And in the end it sure does, while he stands there amazed, he reaches out to touch it and in that moment is so illuminated you can’t help but to think that right then and there Cillian Murphy becomes our new God, the one to give us light.

On a space mission where everything that could go wrong does go wrong it is hard to avoid pathos. Of course we have casualties and noble sacrifices. But Sunshine manages to pull this off without the five minute speeches about “Tell my family I love them” and “We will miss you” and all that emotional crap. Maybe because from minute one we get the feeling they will not return from their trip and they all know it too. So there is no need to say all the unnecessary emotional stuff. Sure, they have been on that ship together for years and they are all they have left, but in the end they are all there to do a job and they never ever forget that. It is refreshing really, to see a movie where the emotional is not stressed by words or tears or anything done by the humans in it. It is created simply by the images of light and shadow. How the sun is so cruel to them out there and so kind to us down here. Beautiful irony.

Sure, they could have done without the mad astronaut “talking to God” and walking around in nothing more than his completely burned skin, but all in all this is a movie worth seeing. Not because it is an uber-precise sci-fi, or an awesomely suspenseful thriller or an overly emotional tale of human sacrifice. No, because it is illuminating, unusual and far from perfect, just like we are.