Here's my submission to this month's Groovers and Mobsters Present:. For this lovely month of July, the topic was films set in space. I wrote about a small film that went largely unnoticed in theaters and on video, but one that you should check out. It's something else.
"Are you an angel? Has the time come? I've been waiting so long."
Danny Boyle's Sunshine is a sci-fi thriller unlike any I have seen. One part 2001, one part Armageddon, one part Alien, one part Friday the 13th, the film concerns eight scientists on a mission to restart the sun, which has begun to die. Their plan: launch a nuclear bomb with a payload the size of Manhattan Island into the star to jump start it back into action. Their's is a mission of desperation. They are the second team to go out and attempt this after the first one failed. All of Earth's resources were used up to create the bomb. Put simply, they are humanity's last hope.
As with most all Danny Boyle films, Sunshine succeeds because it places real, believable people in ridiculous situations. Boyle and his actors treat the mission with a steadfast seriousness, which makes it easy for us to buy into their situation. The aspect that makes Sunshine really stand out is its handling of how the human mind uncouples when faced with world altering problems. The film follows the classic sci-fi space thriller conventions, those being something goes wrong with the mission and characters start to die, but it's handled in smart way so that it doesn't seem like the characters are dropping for shits and giggles. One tiny, but crucial mistake on the part of one of the characters sends the whole thing spiraling out of control. It's a believable way to get into the action, and it does not go unappreciated. The film does peter out in the third act, as the themes of insanity take over, and the premise devolves into a slasher film. It feels out of place, but, at the same time, strangely appropriate for the story. You'll see.
Sunshine was pretty much ignored when it came out, and, as such, has not had that much of an impact on modern day sci-fi. That's not to say that it's mark can't be found anywhere. Sunshine showed filmmakers what a sci-fi thriller could be with a menial budget. Sunshine was made for barely anything (by today's standards), but you wouldn't know that. The effects are amazing! Films like Moon and District 9, both visual feasts in their own right, take a cue from Sunshine in that they are low budget, but boast awesome imagery. The comparisons don't stop there. Moon is a small film, set in space, about how the isolation and trauma from the environment, brought on by a sudden obstacle, can mess a person up! Moon is thought provoking, visually arresting, and intimate whilst being exciting and entertaining, and all that can be attributed to Sunshine, in some way. Danny Boyle's film may not have ushered in a new age of science fiction space opera, but it sure kicked the genre in the right direction. Now, people just have to see it!
There you go. Hope I piqued our interest, because, let's be honest; you haven't seen this movie. Be sure to check out the other submissions to this month's Groovers and Mobsters Present:, and be sure to visit both Fandango Groovers and Movie Mobsters for more musings on film and the like. See you next time.