Although Sunshine came out in 2007, I feel compelled to write about it, because: A) I watched it just recently and B) It has largely (and undeservedly) been ignored. Danny Boyle's other works (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days/Weeks Later) have all been watched by everyone who has listed 'Watching movies' in their activities section on their facebook pages. Sunshine was largely forgotten.
My personal view on Boyle's work is that he is the spiritual brother of Darren Aronofsky. Beyond their wonderfully detailed and shot films, both directors have the ability to get their actors to rip out their humanity and place it in front of the audience. No one walks away from theaters complaining about bad acting or poor characters. Usually they walk away in a daze after the visual assault they just endured.
Sunshine isn't a particularly original movie in the strictest sense. The plot follows a crew of eight about a spaceship, the Icarus II, headed to the sun. The sun is dying and their mission is to drop off a massive bomb to re-ignite it. They are the second ship charged with this mission, since the first went missing seven years earlier. The Icarus II passes Mercury, when they pick up the distress signal of the Icarus I. Mishaps ensue. Not exactly the most original plot line in the Sci-Fi genre, but neither was 28 Days Later. When boiled down, 28 Days Later was just another zombie movie; but instead of focusing of gross-out effects and creepiness, 28 Days Later was artfully shot and focused on basic movie points like acting, character development, and a plot that actually went somewhere. Same with Sunshine.
While the plot may seem to borrow from films like Event Horizon and Alien the film is wonderfully shot, has a atmosphere, and brings Sci-Fi out from the ComCons and to the mainstream. The ensemble cast includes (but not limited to) Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, and Chris Evans—most known for his work in The Fantastic Four as the flaming dude. Everyone gives amazing performances, which is notable in a genre that usually ranks only above horror in acting skills. Think about it, when was the last time you really watched a horror flick in which everyone gave outstanding performances (The Silence of the Lambs?)
I must admit that one of my hobbies is watching crime shows (whodunit-types) and finding flaws in the science that they present. Now, I don't know too much about astrophysics, so I couldn't really pick out a lot of scientific flaws in the film that irked some others. But that's not the reason to watch it. What gives Sunshine its weight, its tension, its grip on the viewer, is the way it creates the atmosphere of being in space. In space, you are confined in a small space with the same people all the time and tensions rise. Not only that, if you make the slightest mistake or miscalculation, you're pretty much done for. There's no rescue mission coming to chopper in and pull you out; there are two ways to die: by fire or ice. When faced with calamity, you're probably going to have to face the music and say, "Game over, man!"