I’m loathe to criticise British cinema since it needs all the help it can get, but this doesn’t play to our nation’s filmmaking strengths. It’s worthy sci-fi which borrows a little from all corners of the genre (e.g., Event Horizon, the Alien franchise, 2001, Solaris) and garnishes it masses of relentless visual trickery. There is nothing wrong with that on paper, but sometimes the onslaught of hyperactive effects seems designed to deflect attention from the weak characterisations and flimsy acting. For instance, there is a scene when the crew of the improbably-named Icarus II board their ill-fated predecessor and we are treated to some ‘subliminal’ one-frame flashes of dead crew members’ faces. The first few times this is quite spooky, but after the seventh or eighth time it gets irritatingly superfluous.
It’s a post-Matrix filmmaking context where the producers take great pains to pummel our eyeballs without restraint, lest our attention span drift for one moment. Mostly this is to the detriment of our spacial-temporal awareness, and it gets increasingly hard to follow. The film spends two thirds setting up a classic sci-fi context and then seems to lose confidence in its ability to engage on the strength of its own themes and starts chucking everything into the pan, monsters et al. Like ’28 Days Later’, ‘Sunshine’ is technically impressive but its protagonists are embarassingly featherweight. It is hardly credible that a crew for a mission to save the planet by delivering a massive bomb to the sun should have an average age of about 28, let alone be quite this pretty. Space Odyssey excluded, science-fiction is best when it works well on a human level, and can be experienced in parallel to earthly concerns. The superficiality of the characterisation here limits the scale of the film’s emotional impact, and all we are left with is relentless spectacle.