Stunning Sunny Images

It's hot out there, global warming and all, but taking a nuclear payload into the sun, now that's very hot. So the crew of the Icarus II (that name can tell you about human aspirations, and make you ask about Icarus I) in Sunshine, set in 2057, has the job of restarting the moribund star or facing the extinction of the planet.

It's an exciting film, regardless of your ability to predict what will happen. Part Solaris, part 2001, a bit of Alien, it combines stunning cinematography and music (The Starship Enterprise's holodeck, 2001's classical-type music) with a clone computer of Hal and an unusual presence aboard ship. The flight to the sun is hottest with the different personalities among the culturally diverse crew, among whom tension builds over survival in and out of the ship. With all the sophisticated electronics aboard, it's nice that in the end human strength and weakness determines fate, not wiring.

Perhaps the most stunning images are those facing the sun, on an observation platform where filtering allows the crew to view the monster star regularly. Again, issues about oxygen trump heat, and time trumps technology. Sunshine continually returns to basic human challenges regardless of how many millions of mile away people are.

The film falters at the end, where the mission's success is more important than the fate of the characters, where introduction of new complications takes precedence over resolution of enduring problems, human and technological. The denouement is compressed in time and images, a potpourri of quick cuts and parallel action to create a chaos that need not have dominated the images. Throughout, however, director Boyle does standard good cinema things like put a camera inside the helmets of the two astronauts repairing the ship from the outside. The pov is rewarding.

"Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not." Isaac Asimov