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The Best Science Fiction Movie You’ve Never Seen: Sunshine

One of an occasional series. In a media bristling with pop-culture punji sticks, we work to highlight overlooked gems in film, television, and print.

by
Roy M. Griffis

Bio

May 27, 2014 - 11:00 am
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Saving the world has been a major theme in story-telling as far back as stories have been recorded, starting with cuneiform scratched into mud tablets well before Babylon rose. It’s also been a part of huge cinematic blockbusters like 2012 (dumb as a sackful of stunned baby rabbits, but I still watched it and even own it on Blu)(fun is often far from great), as well as the more universally beloved Star Wars.

The need to save the world is also the plot of Sunshine, in the most explicit way.  Our Sun is dying and a last ditch mission is sent from Earth, with the simple objective of jump-starting the engine of the star by exploding every bit of fissionable material left on the earth in the heart of the Sun.

Why is it Great?

Where do I start?  The stunning visuals (and amazing SFX)?  The immersive sound that puts you in the middle of the spacecraft?  The eerie soundtrack that sucks you in?  (Certain passages of the music are so powerful they’ve been used repeatedly in trailers and other films)   How about just the story of eight flawed humans, who are the best we can muster, with the burden of saving not only themselves, but everyone and every single thing they love?  To say nothing of the fact that it’s just Bat-Shit Krazy (and I mean BSK with the greatest possible respect and affection).

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All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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I sometimes think that the first thought that enters readers mind when they see an article like this -- one full of appreciation and enthusiasm -- is to say "how can I disagree with that?" Oh, well that's us. Humanity.

I'm going to look for it. Thank you for the recommendation Roy! :)
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Glad to offer it up, Duce. I hope you check it out.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is indeed an unsung jewel, but more for the excellent scripting and acting than the strange premise or the relatively ordinary special effects. Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, and Chris Evans turn in stunning performances in the most original "lifeboat" drama since Tallulah Bankhead and her Cartier bracelet.

Rose Byrne is better known these days for "Bridesmaids," and Cillian Murphy achieved what recognition he has for "28 Days," but both deserve major plaudits for their parts in this movie.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why is it Great? Where do I start? The stunning visuals (and amazing SFX)?

Every time I see a science fiction film praised for its visual and effects, I get a bad feeling. I blame Star Wars in particular for this phenomenon. Ever since that film came out and made a gazillion dollars, people have come to think that great effects make great SF.

I strongly disagree with that. In my view, great SF is great because it has an intriguing idea at the core of the story. A great SF film doesn't need ANY special effects at all but can still be great if the story itself exposes you to an interesting idea.

Most of the original Twilight Zone episodes were far better stories than most of our contemporary SF films. Those old black and white Twilight Zones looked very much like something that was done on a shoestring budget to people looking with today's eyes but the stories themselves are often haunting; I still remember some pivotal episodes all these years later because of the way they touched me. I have little expectation of remembering most contemporary SF films because they are almost entirely about the "look" and the effects and only minimally about the story.

One of MY favorite SF films is The Man From Earth (NOT The Man Who Fell to Earth, which is an entirely different film). The Man From Earth was written by Jerome Bixby, one of the old pros who wrote for the original Star Trek series as well as Twilight Zone and other shows. The Man From Earth is the last thing he wrote and he literally finished the script on his death bed. His son finally got the film made on a shoestring budget. There are no special effects. None. There are no futuristic costumes. There are no flashy sets. There are barely even any props. There are some familiar looking B-list actors sitting around a room talking for the most part. Yet it is one of the most thought-provoking films I've seen in years. I don't want to spoil it for you but if you remember the original Star Trek episode about a 3000 year old Roman centurian named Flint who never got around to dying, an episode written by Bixby, you'll be in the right frame of mind to watch The Man From Earth.

None of this is to criticize Sunshine. It might be great. I'm strongly inclined to look at it. But I'm not optimistic if the visuals and special effects are the aspects the reviewer has emphasized, rather than the plot....
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26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
On that note of production values versus an actual well-told story, "The Man Who Was Never Born" from the old Outer Limits and starring Martin Landau is a masterpiece compared to "Sunshine." Half as long, twice the story, 44 years earlier. New and shiny is not better. Story is king, and Landau is great in that.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am a big fan of no blade of grass...Mad Max before Mad Max was cool. Preachy environmental catastrophe matched with end of the world violence, interesting characters, interesting editing....and also Idaho Transfer, maybe Peter Fonda's best directoral effort...maybe his only but a haunting bit of environmental advocacy
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Does it have a happy ending? I now refuse to see ANYTHING without a happy ending.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes and no. Bittersweet, I guess. Since I didn't care much about any of the characters - I wasn't much impressed by their actions, they were pretty stupid at times - it was okay.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seen it - disagree. It's a slow-moving navel-gazer. There's a reason people haven't seen it.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Watch it again. So many movies that I hated or didn't care for the first time I rediscovered later.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is a very slow-moving film that wastes time until it gets to the end. That is not going to change by watching it again. Due to the wonders of cable, I have watched it more than once. It has very high production values. Unfortunately they are not in the story itself.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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