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"Are you an angel?"
In "Sunshine," the newest film from Danny Boyle, the sun looms like the unseeing eye of an incomprehensibly vast god in front of a group of eight scientists who are traveling toward it to make one final plea for the continuation of mankind with the help of a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan. On the basis of this set-up, "Sunshine" makes a case for space existentialism. The sun, it offers, is as close a thing, empirically, as we’ll have to God: massive, awe-inspiring and responsible for the endurance of most life on Earth, it’s also insentient and therefore completely indifferent to humanity’s desperate flounderings for survival.

It’s a good thing Boyle, whose impossible to categorize career has leapt from bravura breakout "Trainspotting" to zombiepocalypse film "28 Days Later" to the slightly slushy kids flick "Millions," is always such an imminently watchable director. "Sunshine" may have some of the grand and solemn coffee shop philosophies of certain 70s sci-fi films, but it plays out like a smart, taut combination of "Event Horizon" and "2010." (Oh, hush now, "2010"’s not so bad.) You could also connect the dots to "2001," "Supernova," maybe even "Dark Star," but as Boyle himself points out, "these films tend to boil down to the same three ingredients: a ship, a crew and a signal." It how you use those ingredients that matters, and Boyle has teased out of his an often astoundingly suspenseful film. Its strength lies in its grounded physicality — we’re constantly aware of the fragility of the tenuous existence sustained by the crew of the inauspiciously named Icarus II (the Icarus I, launched seven years before, failed to complete its mission, its fate unknown).

The goal of the Icarus II is to reignite the sun, which, in 2057, is dying. The bomb, dropped into the center of the sun, will hopefully do this, though the ship’s physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy) acknowledges that the plan is entirely theoretical — they have no way of knowing if it will actually work. The other carefully selected crew members include the ship’s pilot (Rose Byrne), an engineer (Chris Evans), a navigator (Benedict Wong), a communications officer (Troy Garity), a psychiatrist (Cliff Curtis), a biologist (Michelle Yeoh) and the captain (Hiroyuki Sanada). It’s a uniformly gifted international cast, with Evans, previously known for strutting in a suit of computer-generated flames as Johnny Storm in the "Fantastic Four" films, is a nice surprise as the pragmatic Ace, who frequently clashes with Murphy’s abstract-minded Capa.

There is, always, a signal, and things start to go wrong when the Icarus II runs across one from the Icarus I, stalled out, apparently intact, right at the end of its journey. Capa makes the call that they’ll rendezvous with the apparently abandoned ship, thinking that two bombs, and two chances at dropping them, are better than one. Can anything good come of it? Has "Event Horizon" really dropped so far out of the public consciousness 50 years from now? "Sunshine" races to an effective ending, but is never quite as good as when the cabin feverish crew members were causing their own problems.

Boyle is always a gifted visual stylist, and "Sunshine" makes great use of running imagery of fire and ice, as well as of the sun itself, suitable daunting when glimpsed from an observation room through a heavily filtered screen. His best asset, though, may be Murphy, with his angular, boyish physique, otherworldly air, and sinister beauty — he’s a notably remote and unexpected potential savior of humanity.

"Sunshine" opens wide on July 20th.

+ "Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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