Outstreched arm

Friday, August 31, 2007

You crazy diamond

Christ, have you seen a British action film lately? Or horror, or sci-fi, or that mix of those three that's been engulfing the latter two lately? It really makes you sigh as you realize you're bound for one of those anti-Hollywood rants in which ideas are few, cliches are many, and star power and cash are the evil high fructose corn syrup of the movie industry.

Look, it's not a pretty rant, and it's as tedious as some of the movies it attacks. But seeing Danny Boyle's Sunshine will surely make you revisit it. Sunshine isn't perfect, it's not a classic, it's fairly formulaic, and it probably won't do too well in theaters - but compare it to the more American alternatives. It will stand out as fresh, ambitious, energetic, and convincing.

The story: as our Sun shuts down and condemns the Earth to a hell frozen over, a manned space mission is approaching our beloved star with the intent of dropping a purely theoretical "Big Bang bomb" on it to restart its fiery core. The ship is a tiny tail trailing behind a giant solar shield whose exposed surface is rendered in an epic way, making it seem like for a moment, the cinema screen is burning brighter than it actually can.

This is the second "Icarus" mission, and as they lose communication with Earth, our crew run into the remains of the first, unsuccessful mission. The decision to go slightly off course and check it out is a risky one, and things go predictably haywire.

This sub-genre of people trapped in a ship on their way to some grand purpose is nothing new, and Boyle doesn't mess with its hallmarks: the crew interacts in a Lord Of The Flies fashion soon enough, the universe turns out to be a harsh mistress full of surprises, and there's plenty of techno-talk throughout.

But it works, mate. The characters are real, thanks in large to the only vaguely familiar cast. When he's faced with a cliche - say, an onboard computer that disobeys orders - Boyle builds up mounds of suspense around it so your poor reptilian brain, too busy with rollercoaster emotions, doesn't mind it. And this is far from popcorn entertainment - think 2001 without the obliqueness or Dark Star without the goofiness. It's spiritual and artsy, but it has one heck of a Sun God to be spiritual and artsy about.

In the end, the missteps come courtesy of Hollywood writing. There's an element late in the movie that's not quite lousy, but Sunshine would've done just fine without it. It feels a little too much like suspense filler, and Doyle does a very good job of directing it, but it's still... oh well, you'll either notice or you won't. In either case, that little distraction shouldn't ruin the movie.

Remember Aronofsky's Fountain, the staggeringly pretentious, three-era epic about love and immortality which played out like a stretched-out student film? How disappointing was that? Sunshine is more fun, more thrilling, and, heck, it's "deeper".

There are 5 Comments:

Anonymous James said...

A lot of my video based entertainment has been turning British lately. Yes, Sunshine was better than pretty much all of the Hollywood sci-fi that I've seen in a while, but I wouldn't herald it as a good movie.

*SPOILER*

The ultimate premise of just nuking the Sun when you don't even know if it has a chance of working, or not was super lame. It almost seems... American.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Neven Mrgan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed it, not just in comparison to Hollywood lameness.

The premise was ridiculous, but it was ridiculous in the right direction - just vague and epic enough to be poetic. I didn't hold it against Boyle any more than I hold it against Clarke for making the aliens deliver their message in a big black brick.

The goofy part of it is that the Sun is "dying" so soon, but the Earthly solution isn't lame given the situation. What else to do if the rate of cooling is really so dramatic that the Earth would be a dead planet soon?

6:35 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Move to venus!

Maybe I was a little harsh in my first comment. It wasn't bad. I just hoped for more.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous louise said...

I thought Sunshine was quite Hollywood-esque, compared to many British films lately. It was ok, but not up to Boyle's usual standards.

Did you like the sequel to 28 days? I know it's not the same director but I was impressed. I was a bit sceptical about the Iraq parallels/anti americanism, but that stuff is very current here.

I can't think what else I've liked recently... this is england, venus, london to brighton.

I saw the queen the other night, it was awful. It seems a lot of british films that do well in america are the crap ones.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pozdrav iz Slavonskog Broda.

3:40 PM  

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