There is a moment at the start of the movie in which the spaceship crew has to make a difficult decision: Whether they should change their course to the Sun in order to approach a lost spaceship. They discuss the pros and cons, and finally one of them suggests to vote. The answer from another member of the crew is unequivocal: “No, we won’t [vote]. We are not a democracy. We’re a collection of astronauts and scientists, so we’re gonna make the most informed decision available to us.”
At this point of the movie the viewer understands that ‘Sunshine’ tries to show how real scientists are, at least as much as a big budget movie is allowed to. Unlike the crew at Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’, this international team of astronauts seems quite plausible. They are on a mission to reignite the Sun, which is dying (thus threatening life on Earth). Their plan is to drop a massive stellar bomb and then go back home. But, of course, things will not be as easy as they sound.
For more than one hour, director Danny Boyle (‘Trainspotting’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) and screenwriter Alex Garland (’28 Days Later’, ‘Dredd 3D’) manage to balance beautiful images of space travelling with conflicts among the crew and uncertain situations. It’s not a scientific study or a detailed science book, but the overall result is certainly above the average sci-fi movie.
The problem, as it happens often with this kind of movies, comes when the authors start adding more ingredients to the mix: Science gets mixed with religion, strange things happen that don’t have any plausible explanation, and both the plot and the visual style slide towards confusion and nonsense.
This is a pity as ‘Sunshine’, without the last half an hour, would have been a quite serious, visually stunning science fiction movie.