Review: Sunshine

Scene from Sunshine

Scene from Sunshine

Aside from the original Night of the Living Dead, I full on loathe zombie films. The plots are always the same, a virus (or magic) turns people into perpetual-motion flesh eating things. Big whoop.

That was until the independent film 28 Days Later came out and reinvented zombies. Only these weren’t walking-dead, these were people infected with super-hyper-rabies cubed. And they didn’t want to eat your flesh, they wanted to puke blood on you to spread the virus. And it had an intelligent plot with terrific characters trying to survive and keep their humanity, instead of just lining then up to die in variously gory ways. (Note: The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, was an unintelligent film that did just line up characters to die in variously gory ways.)

So when I heard Director Danny Boyle and Writer Alex Garland were teaming up again to make a hard-core Science Fiction film, Sunshine, I was peeing my pants with excitement–only the high-budget thriller wasn’t being shown within a 200 mile radius of where I lived. You would think that Cinema Multi-plexis with a bazillion screens each a little bigger than a TV could let this film grace at least one of them, but no, so sorry, having 10 screens to show another Shrek film is more important than selection.

This afternoon I rented Sunshine, finally released on DVD, and it was well worth the wait. This film is Hard SF, but also a classic horror film that lines up the characters to die in various inventive ways. The deaths are not so much gruesome, but interesting, as characters are fried by the Sun’s heat, frozen in space, etc. etc. Because the victims here are scientists, we don’t experience the same frustrations watching them as we do with the college-kids appearing in most horror films doing stupid things we all know are stupid on their way to becoming monster-fodder.

Instead, we have highly-professional characters who are really smart. So instead of shouting at the screen, “Don’t go into the basement you stupid Cheerleader!!!” you get to yell, “Don’t forget to factor the solar shielding into your calculations when you plot your course adjustments you stupid physicists!”

Okay, not really, actually it’s all the audience can do to keep up with and admire the inventive solutions the characters arrive at to survive. Which is the other cool aspect to having scientists as horror-movie monster-fodder, they don’t take it shrieking. These characters identify the threat and immediately figure out a daring solution, all of them. Even the least courageous of them is still pretty damn courageous.

It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t underestimate the audience’s intelligence, even if the theaters underestimate our desire for intelligent films.

Warning, the film’s website has plot spoilers right on the front page.





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