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February 27, 2008
Sunshine Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
13/9/20076/2/2008FoxDanny Boyle
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Cillian Murphy

If you've never heard of the movie Sunshine that probably isn't too much of a surprise. Despite generally positive reviews from critics when it hit cinemas around the world during 2007 it only managed to take $US32 million worldwide at the box office, with a very disappointing $US4 million gross in America. In Australia it did moderately well (compared to other territories) with a box office of just under $AU2 million ($US1.8 million). Still, this was a movie that neither myself, nor my friends, had seen prior to receiving this Blu-Ray disc for review.

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Cillian Murphy puts in a fine performance.
Sunshine is set 50 years in the future when the sun is dying and is no longer providing the energy and the light that mankind needs to survive on Earth. The entire global community pools its resources to send a mission into space to deliver a bomb to reignite the part of the Sun that is failing. Our story concerns the eight astronauts and scientists who lead this mission. On their journey towards the Sun the crew stumble upon the ship that was sent on the same mission seven years previously, the Icarus I, drifting in space. From this point on things start to go very wrong and it’s about how the crew react under the enormous pressure of their endeavor to save mankind.

The first thing that really stands out about this movie is the impressive cast which includes actors such as Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later), Cliff Curtis (Collateral Damage), Chris Evans (Fantastic Four), Troy Garity (Bandits), Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins), Hiroyuki Sanada (Rush Hour 3), Benedict Wong (Spy Game), and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Fortunately the actors, in almost every case, put in performances far surpassing those in their 'big blockbuster' movies. Who would have ever thought that Chris Evans could really act after seeing him in Fantastic Four?

While it may be rather predicable this movie was a joy simply by the way it builds up the tension from the opening moments. As soon as you meet the characters you know they have been in isolation for months, and it's starting to take a toll on their daily lives. You really feel for each character as their mission falls apart and they struggle for survival, both mentally and physically. If there was a disappointment with Sunshine it would certainly be the final third of the movie which changes tone from a dramatically tense space drama to more of a horror slasher movie. While it didn't totally destroy the movie, the ending turned what could have been something quite special into something little more 'teen popcorn' flick.

So While this is not the best film that I have seen recently, Sunshine was one which still managed to impress, despite the pretty average ending. The acting is great across the board, the movie gives you a great feel of isolation in space, the set design is great - particularly the external viewpoints - and the visual effects are solid as well. This is a movie worth checking out if you haven't seen it as yet.

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Time for a meeting I think...
Encoded in AVC MPEG-4 at the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 Sunshine is a stunning title on Blu-Ray. Much of the emotion, and awe, in this movie comes from the visuals rather then audio or script and in this regard the transfer is a winner. Admittedly a fair percentage of the movie includes cold blue space ship interiors, and also plenty of darkness in space, but the detail remains consistently high throughout. At times the darkness of the picture is punctuated with brilliant sunlight or bright flames which really pop out at you. Visual effects, as one would expect from a movie not 12 months old, look quite spectacular.

It must be pointed out that the latter part of the movie uses quite a bit of intentional visual distortion, so confirming the clarity of this transfer is a little difficult a times, but we were impressed with the early portions of the film. Having said that there was the occasional scene which looked a little out of focus, but those moments were infrequent to say the least.

Sunshine includes a cracking DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which, even at only the 1.5Mbps core available through the PS3, is a stunner with some brilliantly understated audio at times, including simplistic music and ambient sounds. In the action sequence sht music and effects ramp up to something very special with solid use of directional effects from the surround sound speakers, as well as frequent use of the sub-woofer when required. It's not the best we have ever heard from the Blu-Ray format, but it's certainly not far off it.

Other tracks on this disc include English Descriptive Audio 5.1 at 384kbps, German DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 5.1 each of which is encoded at 768kbps. They aren't quite as clear as the English track, but are certainly more then acceptable from the brief samples we tried. Subtitles are provided in several languages for the feature and commentary tracks. Feature subtitles include English for the Hearing Impaired as well as eight other languages

Sunshine was a Blu-Ray disc we were very keen to get our hands on. As many of you would be aware this was one of the first Profile 1.1 enabled discs ever released for the Blu-Ray format, and we were keen to check it out. But then smack! Australia isn't getting the same release as America, instead our disc mastered off the European release, which does not include the Profile 1.1 features. Oh well, I guess we'll wait a bit longer for that. This disc does, however, still have quite a few extras worth spending some time checking out.

Commentary with director Danny Boyle: Danny Boyle provides a very interesting commentary about the production of the movie including quite a bit of technical detail. He even goes into the mixed-race cast, and certainly discusses the ending which is a topic of some debate. This track is well worth a listen. This track is encoded in 2-channel Dolby Digital at 224kbps.

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Discussions on the set...
Commentary with Dr. Brian Cox of the University of Manchester: The first thought is, why the hell is there a commentary from a Doctor from a University. The answer is simple folks. He provides an evaluation of the film and how it could actually reflect real life. He points out inaccuracies compared to what would happen in real life. I actually found this (and the other commentary) quite interesting. This track is encoded in 2-channel Dolby Digital at 224kbps.

Deleted Scenes (18:54): A series of twelve deleted scenes which include an optional audio commentary from Danny Boyle which explains why the scenes were cut. Having said that many of the scenes are extended version of scenes in the movie. Each scene is encoded in Standard Definition but using the AVC codec for improved clarity.

Web Production Diaries (46:47): The bulk of the 'video features' can be found in these development diaries which appeared on the internet. There is plenty of production and 'on-set' footage available and while it still feels too broken up this is not a bad watch from start to finish. The video has been encoded in Standard Definition but using the AVC codec for improved clarity.

Short Films (14:41): A rather strange inclusion as neither film has anything to do with Sunshine. Instead Dad's Dead and Mole Hills are two short films which Danny Boyle wanted to include on the disc to give them a wide audience and get the director's noticed. While Dad's Dead is pretty good I honestly didn't get much out of Mole Hills at all. Perhaps I'm not arty enough, or smoking enough weed! I do applaud Danny Boyle for making the effort to include them though.

Theatrical Trailers (3:29/HD): Both the teaser and theatrical trailers are included. The teaser is only presented in Standard Definition, while the full trailer is presented in HD. Strangely the full theatrical trailer seems to tell much less about the movie then the Teaser - perhaps that's why the movie struggled to sell at the box office.

Despite the rather average ending this was a very enjoyable movie which I certainly recommend. The transfer on Blu-Ray is quite polished, as is the audio, however we are unfortunately somewhat short changed on the extras compared to the American release of this movie. Seeing as Fox region code their Blu-Ray discs we sadly have no option to import. Still the movie is the feature on any disc and with a couple of decent extras this is still a Blu-Ray disc worth checking out. In stores now...

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.