Guy Ritchie, like Danny Boyle, is a famous UK director. But the films made by Ritchie have very little in common with the films made by Boyle. Ritchie makes crime films; Boyle makes any film. Boyle's body of work contains a great neo-noir, Shallow Grave; a junkie film with an excellent soundtrack, Trainspotting; and even a Bollywood film, Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle also has no definable style at any level of the art (music, direction, cinematography, writing) or a clear political position (he is not on the left, he is not on the right, he is not in the center). His films are simply either good or bad, interesting or boring, fast or slow.

However, Boyle's films, be they good or bad, always contain something that stands out, something notable. For example, the notable thing in the generally bad film Sunshine is the spaceship Icarus II. (The story: In 2057, a spaceship is sent to the dying sun with a payload that will somehow revive it.) Unlike almost all other spaceships in the history of cinema, Icarus II is not a sterile, spotless machine made of pristine metal and plastic. The spaceship is oxygenated by a lively system of plants, and the plants grow in soil, and this soil has water and bacteria, and the bacteria enrich the soil with nutrients. Icarus II is one of the most (if not the most) realistic spaceships to ever hit the screen. The science of the sun in Sunshine is weak, but the science of the spaceship is strong. If humans ever travel deep into space, it will be with other (micro and macro) life-forms. Life is not a thing; life is a system of things. The Works of Danny Boyle at SIFF Cinema, April 8–10.

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