BRITISH director Danny Boyle has created one of the brightest entries into the sci-fi genre in a long time with Sunshine, a jaw-dropping cinematic achievement that positively radiates with intelligence and edge-of-the-seat thrills.
A self-confessed fan of films like Alien, Solaris (the original) and 2001, Boyle has created a memorable experience that manages to pay respectful homage to such classics as well as something very unique in its own right.
Set in the not-too-distant future, the film follows the fortunes of an eight-man crew of scientists as they attempt to re-ignite the solar system's fading sun using a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan.
They represent Earth's last hope and travel with the knowledge that a previous mission has failed. But as they begin to near their target, divisions emerge and crew members struggle to keep a grip on their sanity. Then they receive a signal from the previous mission's spaceship...
The great thing about Sunshine is the way that it thrusts you into the heat of the action from the beginning. Boyle doesn't feel the need to set the scene or investigate his characters' back stories.
Rather, they're mid-mission and almost immediately faced with difficult decisions. It's a clever device that grips from the outset.
The crew, too, is comprised of strong ensemble actors rather than A-list faces, making the trajectory of their demise more difficult to predict. And they're all on cracking form.
Chris Evans (of Fantastic Four fame) stands out as the brash engineer who puts the success of the mission above everything and everyone, but there's equally notable support from Hiroyuki Sanada as the ship's captain, Cliff Curtis as the psychiatrist, and Cillian Murphy, as the science expert - not forgetting Rose Byrne and Michelle Yeoh as well.
Boyle, for his part, isn't prone to making sentimental choices. No one is safe and all are prone to selfishness and survival instinct.
Alex Garland's script also has fun toying with notions of science and faith without ever resorting to too much techno babble, while the film's obvious parallels with global warming lend it a timely environmental edge.
The film does threaten to lose its way during the latter stages when Boyle veers more deliberately towards Alien territory (we won't ruin how) but Sunshine still maintains its pull even during its freakiest moments.
And visually it cannot be faulted, making a mockery of its modest production costs and proving that less can sometimes be more. The film looks stunning, mixing moments of beauty and savagery with effortless aplomb.
The end result is a truly special experience that confirms Boyle as one of the British film industry's shining lights. Audiences should go and be dazzled by its brilliance.