Sunshine – Danny Boyle – UK – 2006 – Ensemble caste.

Sunshine – Danny Boyle – UK – 2006 – Ensemble caste.

Watching Sunshine was a detached experience. I felt remote and uninvolved with anything happening on the screen. The crew seemed to have been beamed up from an episode of ‘Friends’ and were going through the motions of pretending to be in a space ship. All around them techni-wizards organising the CGI , were busy making the futurist wallpaper.

Sunshine – Directed Danny Boyle – UK – 2006 – Ensemble caste.
Viewed: 14 April 07 – Empire Screen 6 – Newcastle.  Ticket price £6-50
 
‘Friends’ in space

Watching Sunshine was a detached experience. I felt remote and uninvolved with anything happening on the screen.  The crew seemed to have been beamed up from an episode of ‘Friends’ and were going through the motions of pretending to be in a space ship.  All around them techni-wizards organising the CGI ,  were busy making the futurist wallpaper. 

There is deadness the core of Sunshine that pervades the script, the acting the art direction camera and the direction.   The deadness is I think the consequence of Boyle and his collaborators having nothing of substance to say.  They appear to believe that computer imagery combined with stylistic homage to Kubrick Tankovski and Scott  would be enough to carry this movie.  It’s evident that this mimicking of style increasingly cramps and stifles Sunshine.  Finding itself chained to and boxed in by  expectations which it  cannot deliver, Sunshine becomes a chaotic exercise in stylistic vacuity.   

2001 the Alien cycle and Solaris all mapped out ideas about journies undertaken by men and women in space.  Although projecting onto the space mission the concerns and anxieties of their times they succeed through their filmic expression in creatively developing and refining their core ideas.  They all took on the sci-fi genre with some ambition and used film to shape define and respond to particular worlds of concern.   Boyle and his writer are unable to do this. 

In his direction of  Sunshine Boyle lacks vision.  I  can see a couple of incipient notions in the material: the primal environmental quest;  the notion of the sun as a landscape-becoming-state-of-mind which interpenetrates the waking and sleeping hours of the crew (James Ballard territory), the sun as a deluding deity.   None of these ideas is allowed any obstetric freedom either in the script or the camera.  They are aborted still born.   Boyle without confidence in any of the possibilities that were obviously alive at some stage early drafting of the script defaults Sunshine  to a banal action thriller dominated by CGI.   In consequence both players and his camera are reduced to ciphers, pawns in the game of meeting the technical requirements of complex digital mattes.

Neither the players nor the camera created any forms to which I could relate either emotionally psychically or visually.  The overall affect was a feeling of  disengagement from fom the film which was almost completely without tensions.  There was no tension either its plot or in its acting out, or in way the film was the visually structured through the camera.  Visually what I watched was a series of complex orchestrations between camera and digital effects. The camera work was uninformed by any other intention than to mesh with its digital matte and achieve a certain competence of fusion.  The camera is employed simply a mechanical device for recording the image making process,  and is unable to disguise its studio provenance.  The acting like the camera work was without point or conviction.  Amongst the ensemble group of actors, it was difficult to tell one role player from another and Boyle, asks of them no more than to go through the motions the gestures and expressive range  familiar in sit com formats.

As a film Sunshine is a descent into incoherence with little integrity either of plot or the internal devices adopted to carry the film.  The robot that controls the space ship, Icasus ll all is a lacklustre cloned version of HAL.  The distinguishing feature of HAL  is that his identity emerges as a centre about which the film orbits both visually and psychically.  The on board computer of Icarus ll is not permitted to develop any personality: she ( it has a female voice) exists purely as a function of the plot that requires that she be turned off or overridden from time to time purely to facilitate the action.  Sunshine is not even able to sustain itself within the sci-fi genre and the final section of the with the introduction of the bogey man on to the ship, sees it segue into another genre – old fashioned gothic horror. 

Sci –fi is a tough genre : at one end of the spectrum there are the films of Kubrick and Tarkovski;  but  at the other end of the spectrum there is spoofland  Red Dwarf, and the Hitchiker’s Guide.  To cut it in sci-fi you can’t borrow other people’s clothes.  You have to make your own path and succeed or fail on your own terms mapping out response and answers to the challenges that you set yourself within the genre. 
adrin neatrour  
adriinuk@yahoo.co.uk

Author: Adrin Neatrour

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