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It is the year 2057, the sun is dying and mankind faces extinction. Earth's last hope rests with a courageous crew of eight men and women on a mission to ignite the fading star with a massive nuclear weapon. Deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission begins to unravel and they find themselves fighting not only for their lives, but for the future of us all.
For more about Sunshine and the Sunshine Blu-ray release, see Sunshine Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 7, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Alex Garland
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong
» See full cast & crew
Sunshine Blu-ray Review
Danny Boyle's Sci-Fi masterpiece arrives on a splendid Blu-ray disc.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 7, 2008
Eight astronauts strapped to the back of a bomb. My bomb. Welcome to Icarus 2.
Once in a great while a movie comes along that doesn't redefine a genre but rather returns it to its core, realizing the true meaning behind the genre, and creates a wholly immersive experience that will wow audiences as they experience the genre at its zenith. Die Hard did it for the action genre in 1988. Halloween did it for the horror genre in 1978. 2001 did it for the science fiction genre in 1968. Now, some 40 years later, Sunshine also returns science fiction to its most basic roots, creating a film that is stunning in its visuals, eerie in its use of sound, rich in its storytelling, and more true to life in its science than most. The end result is an engaging, exciting, and heartfelt film with deep and meaningful insights into the human psyche. The truest of science fiction films and literature reflect the most prominent and important events facing mankind, project them in a world we don't recognize but can relate to, a world where man has progressed past the difficulties of the present but faces similar problems in the future, and offer solutions to those problems that are often paramount in understanding and confronting the issues of the present.
Sunshine offers viewers such a vision of a world facing imminent destruction and the conflict that exists even among those struggling to do whatever it takes to ensure the survivability of the human race. Even in such a crisis some cannot see past their own delusions, past the errors of others, or past the big picture as paraphrased to perfection in the old Vulcan proverb, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one." To spoil any part of Sunshine would be a disservice to the film's audience. One of its great strengths lies in its unpredictability, its flow, its exciting narrative, and insights into humanity. Saying only that the story revolves around a group of astronauts on a mission to re-ignite the sun is sufficient as that plot only serves as the setting for a film of deeper meaning with many nuances that hearken back not only to some of the classics in science fiction history but that remind the audience of the present world where much of the conflict in this film can be seen in society as a whole.
It takes true skill as a filmmaker to create a film based largely on dialogue, a smart plot, and mood to make a true science fiction film work. The original Star Trek series, for example, employed these tactics and as a result it worked very well as pure science fiction. Most science fiction movies today rely on lasers, fast spaceships, and explosions to sell the story, which is why films like Star Trek: Insurrection fail so badly. Science fiction, for the most part, has become a medium for schlock horror (see the Sci-Fi channel's original movies) with meaningless shoot-em-up and gross-out type films rather than staying true to the spirit of exploration, both literal and figurative, that should drive true science fiction. Sunshine is a film about the degeneration that a single moment can bring forth, and what can be more true to life than the impact of one defining moment in time over the course of history? The reverberations of the first shot of World War One, for example, when Gavrilo Princep murdered Archduke Francis Ferdinand, are still being felt today as it shaped history to the point that it's safe to assume that without that single shot, you wouldn't be reading this review right now. That's what Sunshine gives us, in a nutshell and on a much smaller scale time wise but on a much larger scale impact wise. This is exactly what makes great science fiction. The "decaying sun" angle can be taken literally, it can be taken figuratively, or it can be taken spiritually, all angles seeing it as a metaphor for what each individual viewer sees happening in their world as they walk out of the theater. It's this nonlinear way of thinking that the plot steers the viewer into, should the viewer wish to delve so deeply behind the surface meaning of the film, where one can see what they want to in the sub-context of the film. That is what science fiction is all about.
So if you wake up one morning and it's a particularly beautiful day, you'll know we made it.
Sunshine Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sunshine is presented on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition in its theatrical aspect ratio or 2.39:1. For the most part, this a splendid image that handles the contrasting looks of the film wonderfully. Most interior shots are drab with blues and grays the predominant hues. Exterior shots, or shots with the sun in the foreground, offer a striking and at times jolting jump in contrast and saturation of color on the screen. This style is used to great effect throughout. It is sometimes startling to the viewer, and it only adds to the surreal feel of the movie. The detail in the image is simply stunning. From the shots of the ship flying over Mercury to the definition of the character's faces and their surroundings, everything about this transfer says high definition. There is a little bit of grain here and there, but it's natural and consistent. As an outer space movie, black levels are crucial to a good presentation, and for the most part they are dead on accurate. Early on in the film they seemed too bright, but after a short while this issue goes away. That was the only discernible flaw I noted throughout the length of the movie. Needless to say, this fine transfer is wholly immersive and sucks the viewer right into the middle of the story.
Sunshine Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fox, as per their norm, presents Sunshine with a DTS-HD MA high definition soundtrack. At the present time, I am only able to decode the "core" DTS track running at 1.5Mbps through my Playstation 3. Simply put, this is a remarkable track. It's very loud but never completely overpowering. Dynamics are spot on and nothing ever gets lost in the mix. This is an aggressive, bass heavy soundtrack that is hard hitting from beginning to end. It's loud and powerful but it always remains clean and never distorted. Minute details are also heard throughout with lifelike realism and clarity from the signals of space to the movement of foliage in the greenhouse onboard the ship. Dialogue is clear and intelligible, sounding as natural as if you were on the set. Surrounds are continuously active throughout creating a 360 degree sound field that is almost scary in its immersion. Music is an important factor in this soundtrack, and it sounds wonderfully reproduced with each note striking at the heart of the viewer as it is perfectly tied to the enthralling story line. This is a top notch soundtrack that delivers the goods.
Sunshine Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fans of Sunshine should be pleased with the wealth of extra material on this disc that is nearly as good as the movie itself. One of the major selling points on this disc will be the inclusion of yet another true PiP feature. This is the second film I've reviewed to feature true PiP (the other being Resident Evil: Extinction) and both proved to be unique experiences with more differences than similarities. The PiP feature on Resident Evil: Extinction ran over quite a bit of the film while the feature on Sunshine only pops up here and there. I didn't actively watch the movie with PiP on, but I did have it on in the background while writing this review, and I enjoyed the presentation. The secondary image is larger than that seen in Resident Evil: Extinction but the information isn't nearly as in-depth here. Both have their place and the inclusion of PiP on new releases represents a great way to usher in this era of Blu-ray dominance.
Also included are two standard commentary tracks. The first features director Danny Boyle. Right off the bat, Boyle says that "70% of the (movie) experience is sound." Sunshine is perhaps one of the most surreal sonic experiences I've heard to date in a film. Though the quote is not directly related to anything about the actual film (he's actually talking about the Fox introduction at the beginning), this is an important quote that really demonstrates the importance of having the best sonic experience available to viewers, and with a lossless audio presentation, Sunshine is definitely next-gen in more ways than one. The rest of his track is highly informative and fun to listen to. He discusses the lack of bright color inside the ship as a contrast to the brightness of the sun, places where scenes were cut, and the realism and melancholy of this film versus other science fiction films. Of all the people I have heard talk about movies on commentary tracks, Danny Boyle is easily the one I would choose to sit down with over dinner to discuss film. He knows his stuff and has a genuine fondness for movies and the magic they engender.
The second commentary track features Dr. Brian Cox of the University of Manchester, the science consultant who worked on the film. He discusses the scientific accuracy of the film and points out the places in the movie where real life science just wouldn't work with parts of the film. At times listening to Dr. Cox is like being in attendance at a lecture at a top University, and as such I found it both highly engrossing and highly entertaining.
Also found on the disc are a dozen deleted scenes (480p, 18:54), separated into two sections, all with optional commentary with director Danny Boyle. Web Production Diaries is a series of 22 short features related to the making of the film, presented in 480p, ranging from a discussion of Danny Boyle as a director by the cast to a discussion of what would actually happen if the sun died. Two short films are included. The first is Dad's Dead (480p, 7:35), directed by Chris Shepherd. It stars off with a brief introduction by Danny Boyle. The second is entitled Mole Hills directed by Dan Arnold.
Next up is a new type of feature entitled Journey Into Sound: Surround Sound Enhancement. This feature is only available to viewers with 1.1 complaint Blu-ray players and 5.1 audio systems. Basically, this feature lets you mix the soundtrack. For example, the first scene features the character of Dr. Searle in the observation deck. He dialogues with the computer and the viewer can choose which speaker the voice of the computer comes from. It's a nifty gimmick feature, but as far as honest to goodness "value added" material it amounts to insignificant at best. Finally, the film's teaser trailer (480p, 1:54), the full length trailer (1080p, 1:59), and 1080p trailers for 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Alien vs. Predator, and X-Men: The Last Stand round out this disc's special features.
Sunshine Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sunshine is the most remarkable and genuine science fiction film since 2001. It relies on feeling, tension, and heart to make it what it is. It's infinitely refreshing, hearkening back to the glory days of the genre with nods to the aforementioned 2001 and perhaps the greatest science fiction/horror film of all time, Alien. Danny Boyle's Sunshine and his previous film 28 Days Later are genuine masterpieces both inside and outside of their respective genres and with these two films he has catapulted into my list of favorite directors. This is a top-notch Blu-ray disc that offers superior image and sound quality. The supplements alone are worth the price of admission, though the lack of 1080p is the only fault I have with them. I cannot stress enough that Sunshine is essential viewing for science fiction fans, and as such it receives my highest recommendation.
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Sunshine Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sunshine Blu-ray Exchange Program - January 13, 2011
Blu-ray enthusiasts have been reporting playback issues with the Blu-ray release of Sunshine. Now, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has come through and made available replacement Blu-ray discs for any consumer that has had an issue playing their copy of Sunshine. ...
• Fox Announces Blu-ray Release of Sunshine for Jan 8 - October 31, 2007
Fox made things official today by announcing a January 8, 2008 release date for Danny Boyle's sci-fi thriller Sunshine. The editorial staff of Blu-ray.com was treated to a preview of this title while on a visit to Fox Studios at the Blu-ray Festival in Los Angeles ...
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