Editor's note: Spoilers ahead! Sorry. Force of habit from Harry Potter onslaught. (But there really are spoilers ahead.)
Sunshine, the latest film from 28 Days Later director Danny Boyle, begins as an intelligent science fiction adventure but degenerates into a poorly conceived slasher movie. Set some fifty years in the future, a team of astronauts travel to the sun to re-ignite the dying star. Several members of the crew perish during the perilous journey fraught with accidents, both man made and natural.
The first two acts border on greatness, hampered only by the inadequacies of the actors. Outside of the strong performances of veteran actors Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Cliff Curtis, the flat, ineffectual acting detracted from the intensity and seriousness of the subject matter.
While often bleak, science fiction films of the 1970s usually explored contemporary philosophical and metaphysical concerns displaced to fantastical settings. Movies such as Soylent Green, Silent Running, and even late-sixties pictures 2001 and Planet of the Apes typify these features. With the advent of Star Wars, filmmakers began to shy away from intellectual stories. By the early 1980s, the slasher film replaced science fiction as the fantastical genre du jour. In 107 minutes, Sunshine encapsulates nearly 20 years of genre history.
In the third act Sunshine enters the 1980s when an unexpected appearance of a space bogeyman proceeds to dismember the crew with little or no foreshadowing, derailing the earlier premises. Shot using refracted light, the vague, confusing, and utterly pointless slasher scenes only obfuscate the remainder of the movie.
After the apparent defeat of the killer (even this scene lacks clarity) the climactic act returns the movie to its 1970s roots: an unexplainable scientific miracle restores the sun's luster. Here, acting once again hampers the movie. In a role that requires a powerful actor, Cillian Murphy mutters his way through the end of Sunshine, which ends with a whimper rather than a bang. Rarely has a film descended from such heights to dismal depths in under two hours.