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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Andrew Macdonald|
|Written by||Alex Garland|
|Music by||John Murphy|
|Cinematography||Alwin H. Kuchler|
|Edited by||Chris Gill|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Running time||107 minutes|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Andrew Macdonald|
|Written by||Alex Garland|
|Music by||John Murphy|
|Cinematography||Alwin H. Kuchler|
|Edited by||Chris Gill|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Running time||107 minutes|
Sunshine is a 2007 British science fiction thriller film directed by Danny Boyle. The film was adapted from a screenplay written by Alex Garland about the crew of a spacecraft on a dangerous mission to the Sun. In 2057, with the Earth in peril from the dying Sun, the crew is sent on a mission to reignite the star with a nuclear bomb with the mass of Manhattan. The script was based on a scientific back-story that took the characters on a psychological journey. The director cast a group of international actors for the film, and had the actors live together and learn about topics related to their roles, as a form of method acting. To have the actors realistically react to visual effects that would be implemented in post-production, the filmmakers constructed live sets to serve as cues. The ensemble cast features Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong and Chipo Chung.
The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Moving Picture Company, DNA Films, UK Film Council, and Ingenious Film Partners. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, while the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment division released the film in the video rental market. Sunshine explores physics, science and religion. Following its wide release in theatres, the film garnered several award nominations for its acting, directing, and production merits. It also won an award for Best Technical Achievement for production designer Mark Tildesley from the British Independent Film Awards. The film score was orchestrated by musician John Murphy. The soundtrack was released by the Fox Music Group label on 25 November 2008.
Previous science fiction films that Boyle cited as influences included Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 film Solaris, and Ridley Scott's 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien. Sunshine was released in the United Kingdom on 6 April 2007 and in the United States on 20 July 2007. The film took £3.2 million in the UK over twelve weeks, and in the USA it was placed no. 13 in the box office on the first weekend of its wide release. With a budget of US$40 million, it ultimately grossed US$32 million worldwide. Although the film was not considered a box office success, preceding its initial screening to the public, the film was generally met with positive critical reviews. With its initial foray into the home media marketplace; the widescreen DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film featuring the hi-definition theatrical trailer, scene selections, and director's commentary among other highlights was released in the United States on 8 January 2008.
In 2057, the failure of the sun starts a solar winter and threatens Earth. Humanity, in an attempt to reignite it, loads a massive stellar bomb onto a spaceship named Icarus II. The ship is the second and final attempt to save mankind, as the first mission, the Icarus I, was lost seven years previously for reasons unknown.
After losing contact with Earth due to the effects of nearing the sun, Icarus II Communications Officer Harvey discovers the distress beacon of Icarus I while passing Mercury. As the stellar bomb's operation is purely theoretical, physicist Capa recommends to Captain Kaneda they change course; since both bombs depleted all of mankind's fissile resources, a rendezvous with Icarus I would allow two attempts. Mace, the ship's engineer, opposes this plan.
In planning the new course, navigator Trey forgets to realign the shields that protect the ship from the solar wind, causing damage to the shield. Kaneda and Capa embark on a spacewalk to make repairs while the ship is angled away from the sun. However a fire in the ship's oxygen garden caused by reflected sunlight causes the ship to realign and face the Sun, and Kaneda sacrifices himself to complete repairs. Trey blames himself for the loss of Kaneda and the oxygen garden, and psychiatrist Searle assesses him as a suicide risk and sedates him.
Icarus II reaches Icarus I, and Capa, Searle, Harvey, and Mace board the stricken vessel, leaving co-pilot Cassie and botanist Corazon on board Icarus II. While Icarus I has a functional oxygen garden and payload bomb, the ship's computer has been sabotaged, rendering delivery of the second payload impossible. Mace finds a video left by Captain Pinbacker, a radically religious man who states the mission was purposely abandoned by him, thinking it was the "will of God" that humanity should die. The crew of Icarus I is found dead in the solar observation room, having been exposed to un-shielded rays of sunlight. Suddenly, the Icarus I forcibly decouples, destroying the outer airlock and stranding the four crew members on the derelict spacecraft.
Mace suggests that if one crew member stays behind to operate the airlock manually, they can jettison the other three between airlocks by using the vacuum release to propel them; when Searle offers to stay behind, Capa is given the only viable spacesuit, leaving Harvey and Mace with only spare insulation material. Propelled to the Icarus II, Harvey is knocked into space by debris and freezes. Searle, having decided to commit suicide, then enters the Icarus I solar observation room, opens the protective shutters, and is killed by overexposure to sunlight.
Capa, Mace, Trey, Cassie, and Corazon remain alive on board Icarus II. Corazon calculates that, due to the fire in the oxygen garden, the ship lacks the oxygen for five crew members to reach the sun, and the crew discusses killing Trey. With the vote ending up three against one (Cassie), they agree to kill Trey, only to find that he has already committed suicide. During a final inspection, the Icarus II computer then informs Capa that they still lack the oxygen reserves, as a fifth person is on board. Capa ascertains that Pinbacker, now heavily burned from sun exposure, snuck aboard and decoupled the airlocks.
Pinbacker sabotages the spacecraft by removing the mainframe from its coolant bath, shutting down the computer and power systems. He maims Capa, traps him in the airlock, then kills Corazon with a scalpel in what remains of the oxygen garden. Cassie escapes, and Pinbacker chases her into the payload ship, while Mace attempts to undo Pinbacker's sabotage to the mainframe. Manually reactivating the mainframe, Mace is trapped in a coolant reservoir when a mainframe catches his leg, and freezes to death. Capa breaches the airlock's outer door, thereby opening the inner door by decompressing the ship. Manually decoupling the bomb, Capa enters the payload ship, its boosters knocking Icarus II off course and allowing the now unshielded ship to be disintegrated by solar energy. Capa enters the payload and finds Cassie, only to be attacked by Pinbacker. However as the payload turns, Cassie and Capa escape, with Cassie mortally wounded in the process. Capa successfully triggers the payload manually, momentarily distorting space and time and allowing him to watch the interior of the sun enter the room before detonation. On Earth, Capa's sister reviews her brother's last message on the frozen Sydney Harbour and watches the Sun noticeably brighten, implying the mission's success.
In March 2005, following the completion of Millions (2004), director Danny Boyle was briefly attached to direct 3000 Degrees, a Warner Bros. project about the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire in Massachusetts. But due to opposition from surviving victims and firefighters, the project did not enter production. At the same time, Boyle received a script from screenwriter Alex Garland, who had paired with Boyle for The Beach (2000) and 28 Days Later (2002). Producer Andrew Macdonald, working with Boyle and Garland, pitched the script to 20th Century Fox, who were reluctant to finance the film based on its similarities to the 2002 remake Solaris, which performed dismally for the studio. The project was instead financed by Fox's specialised film unit Fox Searchlight Pictures. Since the preliminary budget at US$40 million was too demanding for Fox Searchlight, Macdonald sought outside financing from British lottery funds, U.K. rebates, and outside investor Ingenious Film Partners. With financing in place, Boyle entered pre-production work for Sunshine, for which he planned to commence production by the following July. Since Boyle had previously worked with Fox Searchlight on 28 Days Later, the existing relationship permitted the director with freedom in production, working in a small studio.
Boyle and Garland worked on the script for a year, spent a second year preparing for production, filmed for three months, and spent a third full year editing and completing visual effects for Sunshine. After completion of filming for Sunshine, Boyle said that he would not revisit the science fiction genre, citing production as a spiritually exhausting experience. The director said making the film had conquered his fear of the difficulty encountered in producing a science fiction film, and that he would move on from the genre.
Director Danny Boyle chose to have an ensemble cast for Sunshine to encourage a more democratic process, similar to the ensemble cast in Alien. Boyle also chose to have the cast be international in order to reflect the mission's purpose "on behalf of all mankind". The space crew in the film also consisted of American/Asian nationality because of the filmmakers' belief that the American and Chinese space programs would be the most developed and economically empowered 50 years in the future. The director had also received advice that there would be advanced space programs with India and Brazil, but the advice was overlooked to avoid creating a cast that was too disparate. According to producer Andrew Macdonald, the actors were required to speak with American accents to target the US audience as much as audiences from other parts of the world due to the budget level of the project.
To prepare the international actors for the film, Boyle had the cast undergo method acting. At the beginning of the film, the characters had been together for sixteen months, so Boyle desired to capture a sense of togetherness among the actors by assigning them to live together. He also enrolled the cast members in space training and scuba diving, as well as watching films together, such as The Right Stuff (1983) and the documentary For All Mankind (1989). Boyle also took the cast on a tour of a nuclear submarine to comprehend claustrophobic living conditions. He also had the cast experience weightlessness in the zero G environment of an acrobatic plane.
Cast members operated a Boeing 747 flight simulator and were introduced to futurologist Richard Seymour. The book Moondust by Andrew Smith, a collection of accounts of the men who had walked on the Moon, was required reading for cast members. The book had been assigned by Boyle because it described the lasting psychological changes experienced by that particular group of astronauts. The director sought to manifest the effect by showing the Sun's awesome, radiant power influencing the psyches of the ship's crew.
Screenwriter Alex Garland was inspired to write Sunshine based on scientific ideas about the heat death of the universe, specifically "an article projecting the future of mankind from a physics-based, atheist perspective", according to Garland. The article was from an American scientific periodical, and Garland had wondered about what would result from the Sun's death. Garland brought the script to director Danny Boyle, who enthusiastically took up the project due to his long-time desire to direct a science fiction film in space. Boyle and Garland worked on the script for a year, creating 35 drafts in their experimenting.
The director (Danny Boyle) also considered the story of Sunshine as a counterintuitive approach for the contemporary issue of global warming, with the death of the Sun being a threat. Originally, Sunshine was scripted to begin with a voiceover talking about how parents tell their children not to look into the Sun, but once told, the children would be compelled to look. Boyle described the Sun as a godlike personality in the film, creating a psychological dimension for the astronauts due to its scale and power. The director also described the film's villain as based on light, explaining: "That's quite a challenge because the way you generate fear in cinema is darkness." The director also sought to have the characters experience a psychological journey in which each person is worn mentally, physically, and existentially and is experiencing doubt in their faiths. To capture the dangers of the voyage that the crew members went through, the director cited Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything as influential in "articulating the universe's power".
|"What interested me was the idea that it could get to a point when the entire planet's survival rests on the shoulders of one man, and what that would do to his head."|
|—Screenwriter Alex Garland|
The story was also written in part to reflect the brilliance and "necessary arrogance" of real-life science when the world's scientists are presented with the crisis that threatens Earth. The time period of the story, 50 years in the future, was chosen to enable the level of technology to advance to the ability to travel to the Sun, but to simultaneously keep a feel of familiarity for the audience. Scientific advisers, futurists, and people who developed products for the future were consulted to shape an idea of the future.
To shape the science of the film, Boyle and Garland hired scientist advisers, including NASA employees and astrophysicists. One physicist, Brian Cox of the University of Manchester, was hired to advise the cast and crew after the director had seen Cox on the science TV series Horizon. The physicist gave regular lectures to the film's cast members about solar physics. Cox also advised the filmmakers to scale down the nuclear device in the film from the mass of the Moon to the size of Manhattan. In the film's backstory, a Q-ball enters the Earth's Sun and begins to eat it away. According to Cox, the Sun would not be dense enough in real life to stop a Q-ball, but filmmakers took creative licence in writing the backstory. Cox noted in the DVD commentary that several inaccuracies were permitted to allow for plot. He also dismissed criticisms of the film by scientists: "Sunshine is not a documentary. It's trying to just, in an hour and forty minutes, get across a feeling of what it's like – not only to be a scientist, because obviously there's much more in it than that. So, I found it interesting to watch the kind of people that get upset because the gravity is wrong."
Boyle originally included romantic subplots, including a sex scene planned between the characters Capa (Murphy) and Cassie (Byrne) in the ship's oxygen garden. However, the director considered the attempt for relationships in space too "embarrassing" and excluded the subplots. Boyle further distanced the characters from possible relationships by ensuring that the cast members wore little to no make-up to avoid any romantic overtures. The director also avoided including humour in the script with the exception of a few gags, believing that humour was a difficult fit for the story. "You get intensity of experience in space movies but not joy. So there's not much room for comedy or sex – everything is waiting to destroy you", explained Boyle.
Slow motion during weightlessness was inaccurately portrayed; the director had discovered this when riding the Vomit Comet, but he kept the slow motion to meet audiences' expectations. The film's premise of the sun dying out is also inaccurate, since the sun is estimated to die out in five billion years' time, after becoming a red giant and not by a gradual decline in brightness. Part of the film's back-story included the sun's death being caused by a Q-ball caught in the solar body, but realistically, the sun would not be dense enough to trap a Q-ball. Another purposeful inaccuracy was the "whooshing" of the ship despite the vacuum – Cox later mentioned in the BBC's Stargazing Live programme in January 2011 that this was simply because without accompanying sound, the CGI shots seemed "cheap".
The film's scientific content has been criticised by specialists. For example, the science periodical New Scientist said that the nuclear device (stellar bomb) used by the crew would be woefully inadequate to reignite the dying sun (billions of such devices would be required). The periodical found the film to be confusing and disappointing. Similarly, solar physicist Anjana Ahuja, a columnist for The Times, commented on the lack of source of artificial gravity on board the spacecraft, saying "Danny Boyle could have achieved the same level of scientific fidelity in Sunshine by giving a calculator to a schoolboy". Ahuja was, however, more positive about the psychological aspect of the film, joking that "the psychology of extended space travel is covered well, although we could have done with a space bonk".
Filming for Sunshine took place at 3 Mills Studios in east London. An elaborate set was constructed, containing eight stages, 17 sets, and detailed models. The filmmakers employed three film units. Filming began on 23 August 2005, lasting for 15 weeks, with August and September being difficult months due to the heat and the cast's requirement to wear spacesuits for their roles. Cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler chose to film in anamorphic format to capture a physical sense of the light. "We shot certain sequences in a very dark environment, which you get used to, so when the Sun plays a role, we wanted the audience to have a physical reaction to it", Kuchler said. Due to filming with the actors taking place on a stage, director Danny Boyle constructed live effects so the actors could realistically respond to computer-generated effects that were later implemented.
To increase the feeling of claustrophobia in Sunshine, Boyle refused to cut back to scenes on Earth, a traditional technique in most films about the planet in jeopardy. The director also maintained an atmosphere of confinement in Sunshine by avoiding filming the primary ship, Icarus II, from the outside. There are only a few outside shots of the ship. He also attempted to avoid filming star field backgrounds, keeping the ship's exterior pitch black, but he was ultimately compelled to show stars outside the spacecraft to help convey a sense of the ship's movement.
A scene in a snow-covered park with three stone monoliths was a homage to a similar scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scene was filmed at a May Day memorial in Stockholm, Sweden. The Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, was chosen by Boyle out of six monuments that he considered universally recognisable. The Opera House, according to the director, possessed a "heat-thing" quality that decided it as his choice for a final establishing shot on Earth.
The snowy territory of the final scene was shot in Stockholm, Sweden, and a composite shot was created combining Stockholm's background and the Sydney Opera House. A slightly different ending was shot after the original but was not chosen as the director felt that it did not fit the film. The alternative ending became available on the DVD of Sunshine.
The presspack says that the claustrophobic environment in the film was inspired by Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot (1981). Boyle also cited inevitable visual influences from science fiction films in space by Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris in 1972), Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968), and Ridley Scott (Alien in 1979). Influences from other science fiction films also included Paul W. S. Anderson's Event Horizon (1997), John Carpenter's Dark Star (1974), and Douglas Trumbull's Silent Running (1971).
Filmmakers consulted NASA in designing the scientific aspects of the film. Technical specifications for the ship were provided in order to make it more realistic. An oxygen garden was also recommended to provide oxygen for the ship and to enable the crew to grow their own food rather than rely completely on pre-packaged sustenance. Boyle met with a department within NASA that was focused on the psychology of deep-space travel, and they advised the director that regular Earth routines like preparing one's own food, enjoying its consumption and cleaning up afterwards are activities crucial to an astronaut's sanity.
The gold-leaf shielding in Sunshine was influenced by NASA satellite designs for deflecting heat and other forms of radiant energy. Boyle designed the gold-coloured space suits along these lines despite persistent encouragement to model them after the NASA template. The helmets were designed to have cameras mounted in them. This further enhanced a sense of claustrophobia useful to the actors in delivering more heartfelt performances. The helmets were also limited to a horizontal slit for visibility instead of a full-face visor as further consideration toward protecting the characters from the ambient radiation of outer space. According to Boyle, the funnel shape of the helmet was influenced by the character Kenny from South Park.
Boyle included "Icarus" in the name of the ship to continue a theme of bleakness, opining that no American would give their craft such an ill-fated name. According to the director, "They'd call it Spirit of Hope or Ship of Destiny. They'd call it something optimistic... in America they would sacrifice all plausibility, because there would be hope." The ship's exterior was designed to look like an oil tanker. The ship's interior was influenced by the design of a nuclear submarine that filmmakers had visited in Scotland, though the space was larger due to NASA's advice that smaller quarters would adversely affect the crewmembers' sanity. The corpses of burn victims in the film were modelled on the Pompeii victims from the Mount Vesuvius eruption.
Cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler provided an idea to render the interior of the ship in the colours of grey, blue, and green, with no reference to orange, red, or yellow. Scenes were intended to be shot inside the ship at long intervals, and when the shot changed to the outside, yellow-starved audiences would be "penetrated" by sunlight. The visual effects of the sunlight were based on photographs from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory project. Boyle also sought to pursue inexpensive methods in filming sequences involving actors and visual effects. In a scene where Cillian Murphy's character dreams of falling into the sun, the actor was placed in a gantry around which 20 assistants rotated an assembly of bright lights.
In another scene in which a character dies from solar exposure among the ashes from cremated bodies, massive wind turbines propelled biodegradable dust at the actor in the director's attempt to have the computer-generated effects follow the actor instead of vice versa. Boyle commented on his approach to using effects, "There is part of our brain where we admire the effect, but we put it in a side compartment of our experience because you know there's no way an actor can live through that, or be there in that moment." During the post-production process, Boyle hired one visual effects company, London's Moving Picture Company, to work on the film's 750 visual effects. The assignment of a single company was contrary to the industry trend of hiring multiple vendors to work on a film's effects. Boyle chose one company for ease of quality control, though the decision resulted in a prolonged post-production process.
When the film was mostly complete, director Danny Boyle provided the footage to the band Underworld, who improvised a score. Karl Hyde of Underworld was influenced by the music of avant garde composer György Ligeti which had been used in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Lux Aeterna by Ligeti particularly influenced Hyde. When Underworld finished recording the band sent its work to composer John Murphy, who completed the score, resulting in a hybrid between Underworld and Murphy. The band I Am Kloot also contributed to the score with the track "Avenue of Hope".
Despite high praise for the score from fans of the film a soundtrack was significantly delayed. This was partly due to "disputes" between the lawyers of Underworld and Fox Searchlight. Although not available close to the film's debut, the soundtrack was finally released on iTunes USA on 25 November 2008.
|Sunshine: Music from the Motion Picture|
|Film score by Underworld and John Murphy|
|Released||25 November 2008|
|Label||Fox Music Group|
|Sunshine: Music from the Motion Picture|
|1.||"Welcome to Icarus II"||1:59|
|2.||"Avenue of Hope"||4:34|
|3.||"Capa's Last Transmission Home"||2:11|
|4.||"Kaneda's Death, Pt. 2"||2:58|
|6.||"Kaneda's Death, Pt. 1"||6:06|
|7.||"Searle Finds the Crew of Icarus I/Floating Free/Searle's Last Blast"||3:11|
|8.||"Freezing Outside: Harvey"||2:54|
|10.||"Pinbacker Slashes Capa"||2:32|
|11.||"Corazón Finds the Seedling"||1:20|
|12.||"Cassie Searches/Dead Corazón"||2:41|
|13.||"Freezing Inside: Mace"||1:51|
|14.||"Capa Suits Up"||1:54|
|15.||"Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)"||4:27|
|18.||"Capa Meets the Sun (To Heal)"||2:18|
Sunshine was originally slated for a theatrical release in October 2006, but the release was later changed to March 2007. The film was finally set to debut in April 2007. Sunshine made its world premiere at Fantasy Filmfest in Bochum, Germany, on 23 March 2007.
The film was originally slated to be released in the United States in September 2007, but the release date was moved earlier to July 2007. Sunshine was released in the United States and Canada at select locations in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Toronto on 20 July 2007. Sunshine opened in 10 cinemas in the United States and took US$242,964 over the opening weekend.
Following its cinematic release in theatres, the Region 2 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United Kingdom on 27 August 2007. Extras include deleted scenes with audio commentary by Danny Boyle; alternative ending; web production diaries; two short films - Dad's Dead and Mole Hills with an intro by Danny Boyle; audio commentary by director Danny Boyle; and an audio commentary by Dr. Brian Cox, University of Manchester. In the United States, the Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD on 8 January 2008 with the same features.
A Blu-ray version was released in the UK in October of the same year. In the United States, Sunshine was released on high-definition Blu-ray Disc. Special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Boyle; web production diaries; 2 short films with introduction by Boyle; commentary by director Boyle; commentary by Dr. Brian Cox, University of Manchester; enhanced viewing mode with the filmmakers of Sunshine; Journey Into Sound - surround sound enhancement; and the theatrical trailer in high definition. As of 17 February 2008, Sunshine had grossed $15.83 million in rental sales. A UMD version of the film for the Sony PlayStation Portable was released on 17 December 2008. A supplemental viewing option for the film in the media format of Video on demand is available as well.
The film was moderately well received in the UK by critics. However, many found the last reels disappointing, with one critic suggesting the switch to "slasher movie" mode might have been inserted to appease teenage audiences.
Among mainstream critics in the US, the film received generally upbeat reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 75% of 162 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 6.8 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 64 based on 34 reviews.
Sean Axmaker, writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said the film presented a "visionary odyssey with a grace and awe and visual scope that calls to mind Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey for a new millennium, with echoes of the industrial grunge and crew friction of Alien, the greenhouse ecology of Silent Running, even the unraveling sanity of Dark Star. Film critic Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times referred to the special effects in the film as "convincing and remorseless" and that the film was at its strongest point when it "focuses on the sheer enormity of the mission and its consequences". In Variety, Derek Elley wrote that the film was "gripping enough with its solid performances, good-looking CGI, underlying tension and resonant, iron-hard digital soundtrack. This film reflects education excellence." He reserved praise for the production merits, noting, "Boyle generally directs fluidly, making the most of p.d. Mark Tildesley's sensible, not-too-futuristic sets, lensed with cool reserve by Alwin Kuchler."
|"The drummed-up suspense at the end is not essential, since Boyle and Garland seem more interested in the metaphysics of the voyage; Tarkovsky's "Solaris" demonstrated that if you go all the way with the implications of such a situation, it's more interesting than using plot devices."|
|—Roger Ebert writing in the Chicago Sun-Times|
Conversely, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick Lasalle bluntly noted that the motion picture starts out "bad" and later "gets worse". He summed up his displeasure by stating, ""Sunshine" has nothing to offer, and this nothing is going to be offered relentlessly and earnestly, like a holy missive." In a primarily negative review, Joanne Kaufman writing for The Wall Street Journal, called the film a "a warmed-over stew of sci-fi and gothic horror". Unenthusiastic, she affirmed, "There are the predictable malfunctions that compromise the space craft, the banal speechifying about the fate of mankind, the issue of who will live and who will die. Who cares? The characters are so sketchily drawn that it's hard to keep them straight, let alone get worked up about their survival." Also describing an unfavourable opinion, Marrit Ingman of The Austin Chronicle professed the film exhibited "problems which arise in the film’s third act" which causes "a profoundly implausible plot turn that sends the movie skidding into bogeyman horror. It cheapens the sentiment, and the film doesn’t recover."
Nathan Lee of The Village Voice said the film "works despite feeling both over-familiar and over-ambitious. It crescendos with a legitimate sense of wonder (if not profundity) thanks in large part to the luminous and uncanny score by electro legends Underworld." Writing for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis viewed director Boyle as a "first-rate, seemingly sweat-free entertainer" who always "sells the goods smoothly, along with the chills, the laughs and, somewhat less often, the tears." She went on to say, "He’s wickedly good at making you jump and squirm in your seat, which he does often in "Sunshine," but he tends to avoid tapping into deep wells of emotion." Wesley Morris in The Boston Globe mused that if the film didn't "float your boat as a work of science-fiction, action, philosophy, heliocentrism, or staggering visual spectacle (although, it really should), then it certainly succeeds as a parable for cinematic ambition." He emphatically added, "The surface of this movie is plenty enthralling on its own." Desson Thomson of The Washington Post commented that for the film, "The voyage works, beautifully. While we don't get the ticklish conceit of Scottish profanities in the celestial outer realm, we do get something surprisingly consoling: a deep sense of the humanity that we always carry with us, no matter how far we venture from home."
The film was released commercially in its home country of the United Kingdom on 6 April 2007, taking £1,021,063 in 407 cinemas for its opening weekend. The film also opened the same weekend in seven other markets, performing most strongly in Hong Kong (US$267,000), Taiwan (US$442,000) and Singapore (US$198,000). On the weekend of 13 April 2007, Sunshine opened in 22 more countries, garnering US$5.3 million for the weekend. Its French debut was the strongest with US$1.2 million in 380 cinemas, but the film only had average performance in New Zealand (US$120,149 from 36 cinemas), Switzerland (US$60,285 from 11 cinemas) and Finland (US$42,745 from 15 cinemas).
The following weekend of 20 April 2007, the film expanded to 44 countries, garnering US$5.9 million for a total of US$18.6 million thus far, considered a disappointing amount. Sunshine had poor debuts in Spain (US$1 million), Germany (US$638,549), and Italy (US$453,000). By the end of April, Sunshine had opened to most countries, with the notable exception of the United States, for which a release date had yet to be established at the time. The film's cinematical run in the UK lasted twelve weeks, totaling £3,175,911.
The film was released everywhere else in the two countries the following weekend of 27 July 2007. In the film's first wide release weekend in Canada and the United States, Sunshine took US$1,262,996 in 461 cinemas, ranking no. 13 at the weekend box office. In its theatrical run, the film took a worldwide gross of US$32,017,803; the film's budget reportedly was US$40 million.
The film won the award for Best Technical Achievement from the British Independent Film Awards 2008 and was nominated for several other awards in 2007-08.
|British Independent Film Awards 2007||Best Technical Achievement||Mark Tildesley||Won|
|Best Actor||Cillian Murphy||Nominated|
|13th Empire Awards||Best British Film||————||Nominated|
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||Best Film Score||John Murphy||Nominated|
|Best Technical Achievement||Chris Gill, Alwin Kuchler||Nominated|
|5th Irish Film & Television Awards||Best Actor in a Lead Role in Film||Cillian Murphy||Nominated|
|London Film Critics Circle Awards 2007||British Director of the Year||Danny Boyle||Nominated|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society||Best Picture||————||Nominated|
|Los Angeles Film Festival||Film Presented||————||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards 2007||Best Art Direction and Production Design||Mark Tildesley, Gary Freeman, Stephen Morahan, Denis Schnegg||Nominated|
|34th Saturn Awards||Best Science Fiction Film||————||Nominated|
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