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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film isn't for kids; in addition to some brief, very violent scenes, it features extended discussions of intellectual and philosophical issues. Violence includes shots showing the effects of intense sunlight on human flesh (burned, bubbly, and scarred), a couple of vigorous fistfights between crewmembers, the very affecting death of a crewmember who is accidentally loosed in space (he freezes, face in close-up, and his face and then his shatter); a suicide victim appears so his slashed wrists are visible and blood is everywhere (crewmembers display upset); bodies in previous ship appear huddled together and burned to ash; final chase/fight is extended and violent; final explosions are fiery, loud, and devastating (also rather poetic). There are repeated uses of "f--k," with some other profanity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
It's 2057, and, as narrator Capa (Cillian Murphy) puts it, "Our sun is dying." In order save the earth, Capa and seven other astronauts board the spaceship Icarus II on a mission involving a stellar bomb. After a 16 month journey, they enter the "dead zone" (no more communication with earth) and discover the first Icarus, lost seven years earlier: Should they check it out, recover the ship's bomb, or just pass it by? The decisions they make are shaped by errors in calculations and guesses at their own futures. Arguments increase as options dwindle. Engineer Mace (Chris Evans) gets into psychical altercations with Capa; biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) guards her greenhouse, and comm officer Harvey (Troy Garity) blames others for what goes wrong. As Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) tries to keep the crew on track, the pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne) complains of the occasional "excess of manliness." Yet they need to work together if they want to survive.
Is it any good?
The premise might make Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE sound like another coming of Armageddon; it is, in fact, not an action flick at all. Rather, it's a study of personalities, philosophies, and ethics, with a bit of Alien-like horror in the mix as well. The utter vastness of the space around them is contrasted repeatedly with shots of their narrow interiors -- long, white-walled walkways; close, dark sleeping quarters; the observation deck, where the sun, viewed even at only 1 percent strength, is overwhelmingly bright.
Knowing they are "expendable" in pursuit of saving the world, the crew begins to see each other differently. And this is the beauty of the film, its mediation on seeing and visual poetry. Though the plot turns a little silly by the end, the imagery remains magnificent.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficulties of traveling in space for long periods: How do these astronauts contend with their loneliness, competition, rising tensions, and difficult decisions? How does the film show the structure among the crewmembers, across race, age, and gender differences? What do you think about the possibility of the mission succeeding? They can also talk about science fiction in general and what makes a good sci-fi flick.