When I had mentioned a couple weeks ago that David Fincher was one of my two favorite directors working today I should have mentioned a third. Danny Boyle.
A bit more schizophrenic in his topics and certainly using more "fantasy" in his films than Fincher or Ridley Scott, Boyle is still a master storyteller and that comes through in this film as well.
Having seen Boyle's Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours I was familiar with Boyle's style and looked forward to another sci-fi film of his.
Sunshine was evidently a relative flop as it barely made back its budget and has never garnered much acclaim. I would put it up there with 28 Days Later, Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire and ahead of 127 Hours in terms of enjoyment.
Boyle has always done a great job mixing horror into his various films, be it the hallucinations of heroin use and detox in Trainspotting, the zombies and infection in 28 Days Later or the filth of India in Slumdog Millionaire. In Sunshine it is the horrors of space travel and a psychotic crew member that Boyle focuses on.
Death comes in many forms in space be it freezing, burning, decompression, radiation, foreign objects, solar rays, etc. and Boyle shows them all in their hideous glory. Add to that an irradiated, psycho crew member hunting down the characters inside what Boyle creates as a claustrophobic environ and you get a film that crosses back and forth at will between horror and sci-fi (often interrelated genres anyway).
The ensemble cast is headed by Cillian Murphy with who Boyle worked with on 28 Days Later and who again plays a reluctant "hero" to great effect. The other actors fulfill their typical roles (captain, doctor, communications, etc.) especially well. There are numerous similarities to other well known sci-fi films (2001, Alien, Solaris, etc.) but none of those references here seem trite or cliche or worse--stolen.
Boyle manages to create a sci-fi film that is at once recognizable in tone, themes and plot but yet fresh and complete. Boyle has stated that this film would be his last sci-fi film as its development and creation were so taxing. I just hope he changes his mind.