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SUNSHINE – John Murphy and Underworld

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A daring and somewhat cerebral sci-fi action movie from director Danny Boyle, based on the novel by Alex Garland, Sunshine stars Cliff Curtis, Cillian Murphy and Michelle Yeoh as part of a team of astronauts who, fifty years in the future, embark on a dangerous and potentially suicidal mission: to attempt to re-ignite the Sun, whose internal energy has been slowly dying, and as a result is also a threat to all life on Earth. It’s a fascinating premise – sort of like the flip side to Armageddon – but which was not entirely successful, with some critics citing its pseudo-religious overtones and slightly mis-handled action scenes as stumbling blocks on the way to success.

The score, a collaboration between by English composer John Murphy and the electronic band Underworld, is of the ambient electronic variety, and one of the least successful efforts of the year. I’m not averse to electronic scores in general, but Sunshine is little more than an extended exercise in how to write sound effects. Apparently Underworld’s members were heavily inspired by avant garde composer György Ligeti in the creation of their part of the music, but whatever influence there is very minimal.

There’s very little melody or thematic content, and certainly no “hook” to grab on to – instead, Murphy seems to have taken the route of providing the film with cue after cue of textural ambience, which whooshes, grinds, pings, beeps, thumps and grates but rarely ever actually sounds like music.

Cues such as “Repairs” sound like little more than recorded industrial white noise – one minute it sounds like a telephone dial tone, the next it sounds like the inner churnings of a storage heater. Elsewhere, there’s occasionally some tinkling percussion, or a brief hint of something intangible which one hopes will develop into a theme, but it never comes, and we’re back to the musical gutter almost as soon as we left it.

The one track everyone raved about – “The Surface of the Sun” – has a more traditional-sounding musical aspect, a clear piano line, and a semi-ecclesiastical overtone to it, which makes easily the single standout cue on the album, but it takes a long time to get to this one high point, and even then the cue isn’t that good. I’m sure this music adds to the alienation and coldness of the film, but away from its inspiration, it is completely redundant.

Rating: *

Track Listing:

  • A Star Within a Star (1:59)
  • Searl See the Sun (1:08)
  • The Last Message (1:36)
  • The Time/Commander of the Icarus I (3:37)
  • Mercury (1:00)
  • Two Last Hope Are Better Than One (1:26)
  • The New Angle (3:36)
  • Repairs (4:29)
  • What Do You See (2:36)
  • The Icarus I (3:33)
  • From Inside/Minus 273 Degrees Celsius (3:09)
  • We Love You (0:21)
  • Tray (2:08)
  • The Fifth Crew Member (1:36)
  • An Angel/Cory’s Dead (1:37)
  • Pinbacker (0:35)
  • Mace’s Dead (1:18)
  • Unlock the Airlock (1:21)
  • The Surface of the Sun (3:59)
  • All to Heaven/A Particularly Beautiful Day (3:13)

Running Time: 44 minutes 14 seconds

iTunes Exclusive Download (2007)

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