It can be easy to forget during winter on the East Coast, but the Sun is absolutely crucial for the existence of humanity and just about everything else. If you need a reminder, there's one science fiction thriller you absolutely need to watch on Hulu before it leaves the streaming service on February 29.
Sunshine, Danny Boyle’s 2007 movie about the Sun's potential destruction and a moonshot plan to reboot our dying star, manages to take a somewhat-ludicrous idea and bring it down to Earth through a stellar cast and script. Here's why it's worth watching this story of a group of angsty astronauts on a mission to restart our dying Sun with a giant nuclear bomb.
Sunshine is one of those movies that would be impossible to make now because so many of the people involved have become demonstrably more famous. For one thing, there’s writer Alex Garland, who has cornered a slice of moody, thoughtful sci-fi with Annihilation and Devs.
The cast is also stacked. There are not one, not two, but three future Marvel Cinematic Universe stars here, with Chris Evans (Captain America), Benedict Wong ( Wong), and Michelle Yeoh (a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and a more prominent role in the upcoming Shang-Chi movie). There’s Cillian Murphy of Peaky Blinders, Rose Byrne of X-Men.
Everyone is mostly depressed in Sunshine, stuck on a spaceship that’s trying to reignite the Sun, which is suddenly dying. Boyle consulted with CERN scientist Brian Cox on the project, and Cox brought in scientific ideas that Boyle and Garland could stretch even further. However, the one aspect of the film's underlying concept that really doesn’t work is that a single nuclear bomb, even a colossal one, could reignite the star.
But any good science fiction movie will carry the viewer past any pure scientific questions into something deeper, and Sunshine offers depths in abundance. From a visual perspective, the movie delivers a grandiose, quasi-religious view of the Sun.
An early scene bathes Cliff Curtis’ Seale in 3.1 percent of the star’s full brightness. The screen is filled with bright whites and yellows. The character describes the Sun as “enveloping.”
Boyle would later say in an interview that he tried to give the Sun “a personality in the film, really — something that has a huge psychological dimension for any human being, which is manifested in a way easily through the God idea.”
The Sun is a constant in a movie filled with double-crosses, panic, and doubt. As the characters plot, the camera occasionally shifts outside the ship, seeing the reflected light of the star as it grows closer and closer.
Characters make mistakes in Sunshine, and they feel the weight of those mistakes reverberate over, and over again. They force themselves to keep moving forward because the stakes are too high to imagine anything else.
When Cillian Murphy’s Capa is forced to make a decision that will decide the entire crew’s course of action near the beginning of the movie, he compares it to a coin flip. When Benedict Wong’s Trey makes a mistake, the audience can feel the tension in his every move.
Despite a somewhat definitive ending, Sunshine will leave you with more questions than answers. Boyle swore off sci-fi afterward, with the note that he “would recommend it to everybody. You should do one. But nobody does more than one.”
Sunshine is an epic story of dread, of people trying to find meaning as they also try to explode a bomb in the Sun. Nobody is having a good time doing it, but the results are fascinating.
Sunshine is streaming on Hulu through February 28.