“When he chooses for us to die, it is not our place to challenge God”
I love Danny Boyle’s work. Sure I haven’t seen The Beach or Shallow Grave, but I can’t see myself thinking they will be anything less than fantastic because he has never let me down. The man has spanned genres and never shied away from doing something different than before. Between his visual flair—aesthetically and kinetically—and his brilliant choices in screenwriters to collaborate with, Boyle astounds at every turn. His newest film Sunshine just enhances his oeuvre more to deliver, what in my opinion is, his finest achievement to date. This sci-fi thriller is equal parts 2001‘s psychological quandary, Event Horizon‘s supernatural foreboding (although not as integral to the final act as some detractors of the film say it is), and Sphere‘s stir crazy cabin fever—with a little Armageddon bomb in space world saving. Sunshine is a feat in technological expertise, sci-fi rhetoric, visual beauty, and an acting clinic from its ensemble cast of actors better known for supporting roles in the past.
Writer Alex Garland has crafted a story pitting man vs. God/science vs. creation. While I agree with this point as many have discussed, I don’t agree with the simplicity of it. People have been pointing out that this is a tale of Atheism since how can we mortals take our lives in our own hands by using science to resurrect the sun? If God has called time on our existence, wouldn’t it be our utter disregard for his own being to decide to go against his will? I refuse to believe the film is as simple as that because of everything shown throughout its duration. For one, if we are to accept Greek mythology, it was Prometheus who gave us fire against the will of Zeus and to his own demise of infinite torture at the hands of vultures. The Gods have been fighting as far as how to handle humans and if they had to take sides to fight for our survival, can’t we also fight against those Gods that have said our time is up? Also, if God created us with the mental capacity to create science and ways to go against nature, isn’t it his will to rise up to his challenge and fight?
We are given many moments of religious epiphany by the hands of the Icarus II’s crew as well. These are the men and women risking their lives to save Earth and make a new star within our dying life source. Therefore they are supposed to be the atheists blatantly disregarding the clock of our existence’s final chime. By looking at the sun through their ship’s observation deck they are putting themselves one step closer to that God which they believe in. The sun’s rays, which bath the deck with light and encompass those watching, become a shower of God’s love and mesmerize those sitting before it. However, while this is true for people like Searle, the ship’s psychiatrist, and Kaneda, the ship’s captain, it wasn’t for Icarus I’s captain Pinbacker. While watching the video logs of their predecessor’s mission’s demise, we find that the old captain had an epiphany of God’s will and decided to allow the sun’s rays to consume them and turn them back into the dust from whence they came. The power held inside the sun is both life and death depending on one’s deepest beliefs. What is killing humanity and putting it into nuclear winter is also the only hope they have left for survival.
The story is—for lack of another word—simple at its core. While the sun dies, so does life on Earth. After a failed attempt to create a new star with physicist Capa’s stellar bomb, he and a new crew mine the Earth of its final resources to construct one last bomb to do the job. They take flight on the two-year journey to the sun in order to drop the payload and fly back home in hopes the bomb works. The actual plot is therefore the final leg of this journey and their attempts to succeed with the mission while also surviving to see what their bravery achieves. It is only when they discover the Icarus I on their way that they begin to question morality and the sacrifices needed to save millions at the cost of a handful. Through it all Boyle infuses a wonderful visual artistry to counter the heavy struggle between crew-members and the thoughts within themselves. The use of light is astonishing as the screen is filled with lens flares, double exposures, motion blurs, stark chiaroscuro contrasting between dark and light, and the use of transparent glass to show people as reflections and also layered through multiple fields. However he created the sun, Mercury, and the spark that will hopefully create a new star, is amazing to behold. The sun is literally God-like in is construction and composition and plays perfectly into the meaning that he and Garland want to express.
Being a psychological thriller, though, means that superb acting is necessary for us to care for these people and accept their motives. This cast does not disappoint. Cillian Murphy is great as usual; familiar faces Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, and Troy Garity are all authentic too. But it’s the others that surprise with their emotional work. Hiroyuki Sanada portrays strength and poise of character with his stoic face; Benedict Wong is devastating as the mathematician they all need to depend on; and Chris Evans is the real discovery showing how good he can be. While doing films like Fantastic Four, Evans is usually the cocky funny man with one-note performances. Not here though. His character is the one that understands the severity of their situation and is able to make the tough decisions for the mission’s success no matter the outcome of his own life. It’s his mentality of self-sacrifice—at the cost of his own huge ego—that really shows what the film is about. Accepting your own death for the life of an entire world shows the strength of your being whether or not you need God to get you to that point or not.
 Cliff Curtis and Cillian Murphy observe the sun.
 Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy, and Troy Garity listen to a debrief.
 Rose Byrne reads on her watch.