|Dir. Danny Boyle, Country, Year, 108 mins|
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh
Review by Carol Allen
After their successful collaboration on 28 Days Later and their less well received The Beach a year earlier, director Boyle and writer Alex Garland reunite for another futuristic piece of science fiction/fantasy. This time we are fifty years in the future and the sun and therefore the earth is dying. A team of astronauts are sent from earth to fire a massive nuclear bomb into the sun to reignite it. The crew of "Icarus 2" are the second such mission. "Icarus 1" a few years earlier disappeared before fulfilling its objective. Some way into their journey, the crew of "Icarus 2" pick up a signal from their lost predecessor and decide to investigate.
It's an excellent premise for a sci-fi movie and a lot of interesting and imaginative ideas have gone into it. The scenes in outer space, the outside of the ship, the planets and the sun itself are truly beautiful, sometimes reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which used a much simpler technology, but with a majesty all of their own. The sun itself, the object of their life saving assault, assumes the psychological importance of the Inca Sun God of ancient times. Details of life inside the space ship are interesting too, as is the composition of the crew itself - two women and six men, two of whom are Chinese, one Japanese. No Black or Asian members. Coincidence? Or has something happened on earth that we don't know about? Corazon (Yeoh) is the biologist, in charge of the oxygen garden, which provides both the air they breath and the fresh vegetables they eat. None of those nasty meals in tubes! The space ship seems to enjoy earth style gravity - no floating around on the ceiling here. There is also a HAL style talking computer with attitude, this time with a female voice, and some nice dry humour in the early scenes, as when two of the men start scrapping and pilot Cassie (Byrne) sends out a calm call for assistance because an "excess of manliness" has broken out on the flight deck. While the actors do their best, there is however a disappointing lack of depth and development to the characters. Physicist Capa (Murphy) seems to be sort of in charge and gives us our only contact with earth, when we see him sending a farewell video message to his family before the ship goes out of range. Navigator Trey (Benedict Wong) is also the cook, dishing up tasty looking stir fries and Corazon has her passion for gardening, which makes her one of the most sympathetic characters. But that's about it. There is also a lack of any sense of the geography of the ship.
When they finally make contact with the "Marie Celeste" that is "Icarus 1", the film becomes very difficult to follow. The spooky atmosphere on the ghost space ship is well done and there is some very impressive manoeuvring of crew members in space from one ship to the other. But Boyle's love of big, in your face close ups and hand held camera work gets out of hand, the pace becomes garbled and it's often difficult to work out what is going on, while the climax of the film is busy, loud, explosive and often incomprehensible. This last section does however give us one totally heart stopping moment, when the cool voice of HAL Mark 2 gives the surviving crew some shattering news, and the very last moments of the film, when we see life on earth for the first time, are poetically perfect.