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And that's it: the mission succeeds, the movies ends, we all go home. Where Sunshine fails to live up to its predecessor is that there's nothing to take away. All the mundane stuff in 2001 - yes, Kubrick was contrasting the mechanistic with the divine, but the Discovery mission is no less dull for that - paves the way for astronaut Dave Bowman's mind-warping journey and alien/god-engineered tranformation into humanity's next evolutionary stage. Sunshine's Bowman, a physicist called simply Capa, moodily played by Cillian Murphy - the Icarus 2 crew, in true Alien fashion, don't have first names, much less personalities - witnesses the birth of a new sun before being vapourised.

It's not the fault of Boyle's high-tech lightshow that Capa's meeting with destiny lacks the almost religious experience of Bowman's transformation, but a shiny golden bubbling wall effect simply doesn't stir the soul the way 2001 does, particularly since Sunshine's soundtrack lacks the portentous rising notes of Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Sunshine - image courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

Sunshine doesn't ignore the eternal verities, but relegates them to the ramblings of the captain of the first solar mission, a man made insane by the worst case of sunburn ever and seven years spent on a dusty spaceship without even a jaycloth for company. With his mutterings about god, he's pure deus ex machina beamed in to steer the plot on its true course for the heart of the sun.

Boyle thankfully resists allowing the movie to become a slasher flick in space, but it's hard to see Captain Pinbacker as anything more than a walking plot device, leaving a trail of footprints in the dust and bloody palmprints on the walls to show where he's been and the movie's going.

Sunshine - image courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

And it's good - for a change - to see a crew that's neither a post-Aliens cock-sure bunch of wise-cracking military types, or a crop of moody, foul-mouthed, always fighting, always trying to get off with each other teenagers. A true 'space mission' movie, about experiences more than people, could not present them otherwise. The downside, of course, is that Boyle's crew, like those in Mission to Mars and 2001, are entirely unengaging. Presumably astronauts, like sports people, are so dedicated to their cause that they cease to exist beyond it.

But the director needs ticking off for the repetitive seen-so-often-before establishing shots: how many transverse tracking shots of empty corridors echoing the sound of distant human activity do we need to see, for heaven's sake? How many of the beach brolly-like Icarus 2 silently gliding to its golden destination?

For all its failings, I still enjoyed Sunshine. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it proves engaging without resorting to cheap shocks and descending into the genre mish-mash that 28 Days Later did. It's unquestionably gorgeous to look at, and it's not mere eye candy. This is a serious sci-fi movie, but while it stirs the senses there's nothing here to feed the soul.

Sunshine (15)


Sunshine Sunshine's visuals dazzle, but it leaves humanity in the shade... 70%

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