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IT'S LOVE AND COMEDY BY THE BOOK.

Byline: BOB STRAUSS

>FILM CRITIC

Realistic science fiction is a very tough thing to get right in movies. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is still, by far, the top achievement in the field. After that . . . well, "Silent Running" was kind of cute.

"Sunshine" is the latest attempt to do something in space that might -- maybe -- actually happen one day. The spaceships look relatively functional and a lot of mathematical calculations work their way into the dialogue.

But, although I don't know how feasible the film's basic premise is, I had trouble buying it from the get-go. The idea is that, since the sun is flickering out some 50 years in the future, lobbing a nuclear device into the star will somehow reignite it and prevent the Earth from freezing over.

Um, raising my hand here. Could we invent something powerful enough to do the trick? I mean, the sun's like a trillion hydrogen bombs or something, right? And since it's established that it's still churning out unimaginable heat at the time of this story, wouldn't it fry the device -- not to mention the manned spacecraft and everything in it -- to cosmic ash well before it's put into position to detonate?

Maybe there is good science to back all of this up; I'll admit I know next to zip about astrophysics. Whether that's true or not, though, the fact that I was unconvinced about it all the way through "Sunshine" reinforces my opening argument about serious science fiction movies.

Even without that, events grow less and less believable as the movie drifts on. It doesn't help, either, that so much of it seems derivative, not only from "2001" and "Silent Running" but also "Star Trek" and every movie whose screenwriter was inspired by listening to David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

The Bowie effect comes in as soon as we realize that most of the astronauts on this planet-saving mission have serious psychological issues.

Wouldn't they have been screened a little better before being assigned such a vital task?

Especially since they're traveling on board the unfortunately named Icarus II, Icarus I having disappeared seven years earlier. At least half of the eight-person crew -- played by "28 Days Later's" Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong and Michelle Yeoh -- seem unfit for the pressures of deep-space travel. And when a signal is received from long-lost Icarus I, things start going terribly wrong, and the crew cracks like duck eggs.

Lovely special effects make for some eye-popping visuals. There's also something spiritual going on, but not as profoundly as it did in Kubrick's film. By the time it reaches its confusing, strobe-lit and confoundingly cut climax, "Sunshine" has turned from "2001"-style, mind-expanding psychedelia into one immensely bad trip.

Bob Strauss (818) 713-3670 bob.strauss(at)dailynews.com

SUNSHINE

>R: violence, nudity, language.

>Starring: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh.

>Director: Danny Boyle.

>Running time: 1 hr. 48 min.

>Playing: ArcLight, Hollywood.

>In a nutshell: Tries to be serious about a future space mission to restart our dying sun but runs out of heat.

>Our rating: Two and one half stars

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"Sunshine" explores what happens to the crew of a spaceship on a mission to reignite the sun. Psychological complexities ensue after crew members receive a signal from another ship.
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 20, 2007
Words:568
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