Sunshine follows a familiar pattern: after a ship is mysteriously lost, another ship follows in it’s path into the same trap. This time, however, the danger comes from our own sun, and the crew of the cleanup mission knows it’s doomed even before launch. 127 Hours director Danny Boyle seems to enjoy putting his characters in extreme situations that test the limits of their endurance and their sanity.
Here, as in Solaris (or The Black Hole, or Event Horizon), the journey to the edge is as much metaphysical as physical. Given that the astronauts (played by a cast chosen to represent a true melting pot of humankind) are sure to be incinerated in the inferno even if their mission (to save humanity by reigniting the dying sun with a nuclear explosion) is a success, the question of their mission’s success or failure becomes a parable meant to challenge the very existence of God.
Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland are so intent on staging their debate that they leave no time for the co-ed crew to crack jokes or flirt with each other. Maybe that makes the astronauts seem less than fully human, but it does at least provide the spectacle necessary for us to ponder with awe our place in the universe.