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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Cillian Murphy in “Sunshine,” Fox Searchlight, 2007]

Their first mistake was naming their ship the Icarus. Icarus, a character from Greek mythology, was able to fly on artificial wings, but grew too enamored with his power, flew too close to the sun, melted his wings and fell to his death. I certainly get the symbolism, but if you were on a last-ditch mission to save all of humanity by delivering a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan to the heart of the sun, wouldn’t you name the rocket you were traveling in something a bit more optimistic?

Their second mistake was in embarking on this mission during a Danny Boyle thriller. The talented director of brutal films like “Shallow Grave” and “28 Days Later” has no compunction about putting his casts, and his audience, through emotional roller coasters. If you were headed to the sun in a Spielberg film, you probably stand a better-than-even shot of coming home alive. In Boyle’s version, the crew of the Icarus is looking down the wrong end of some seriously long odds. Boyle’s films aren’t “feel-good” entertainment — but they are feel-something entertainment, which should count for something nowadays.

Their third mistake is a well-intentioned bad decision. Technically, the eight heroes looking to save mankind are aboard the Icarus II — Icarus I was lost before it could deliver its payload — and when the crew orbits Mercury, the planet’s iron content acts as a huge antennae. Harvey, the communications officer (Troy Garity), picks up the Icarus I’s distress signal and Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) puts it to the man in charge of their stellar bomb, Capa (Cillian Murphy): investigate the Icarus I, and potentially acquire another payload and another change to reignite the sun, or maintain their course and their mission. Capa reasons that two bombs and two chances are better than one and one, so the crew intercepts their drifting predecessor. And then things go horribly wrong.

“Sunshine” has been marketed as a cerebral science-fiction film (it even prompted us to discuss that very topic on this week’s IFC News Podcast) but it’s much more visceral than that. To be sure, there are plenty of “big ideas” — mostly about the morality of mankind intervening in God’s plan for the Earth, and whether such a God or a plan even exists at all — but at times, especially near the end, this is more “Jason X” than “2001: A Space Odyssey,” if only “Jason X” were a good film with characters we cared about.

Once the Icarus II heads to Icarus I, the entire movie is like a giant cinematic sweat box, and that’s meant as a compliment. The crew members are closer than anyone has ever been to the source of all life, and imminent death hangs around every corner. “Sunshine”‘s trailer employed the score from “Requiem For a Dream,” and that’s a fitting choice — I walked out of both films with a similar feeling of exhaustion, like I’d run a marathon without the requisite training.

Boyle’s grip on our emotions is so precise it’s nearly as frightening as the film itself: few filmmakers are as adept at wringing terror out of an empty room or a simple pile of dust. He’s such a capable filmmaker, he gets us so wrapped up in the Icarus’ plight that we don’t have time to notice just how silly some of the film is. In someone else’s hands, the idea of a crispy naked guy shouting philosophical gibberish while breathing heavily would be absolutely laughable. At moments like that, Boyle flies pretty close to the sun. But his wings are made of stronger stuff than wax.

“Sunshine” opens in wide release on July 20th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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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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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

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