I fear Danny Boyle has fallen into the “we’ll fix that in the DVD extras” trap in a big, big way. There are two pieces of vital information that are ABSOLUTELYNOTCOMMUNICATED in the movie itself and are pretty damned important to establishing any kind of believability or coherence.
1. The film is set only 50 or so years into the future, and
2. The sun is failing not because it’s at the end of its natural life cycle but because a cloud of exotic matter has drifted into its core and is interfering with its fusion cycle.
The only way to learn of these two premises, however, is to watch the DVD and listen to either of the commentary tracks!!! BOOO!
Without these two facts up front, the premise of the film is slightly ridiculous. The sun will reach the end of its natural life cycle in something like 5 billion years by current estimates (including that of Bryan Cox, the astrophysicist from CERN who consulted on the film). But of course the characters, technology, etc. depicted in this film are more or less identical to our 21st century levels of development. Hard to swallow.
That aside, however, yes, this is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking, total eye candy in almost every shot. It’s also a very ambitious film; Dr. Cox claims and I think I have to agree that no film has ever really been made about the sun. The film also makes a good stab at tackling what it would be like on a personal/philosophical level to confront the sun in this fashion, from close up, from the point of view of preparing to tinker with it to save the solar system. Doyle and writer Alex Garland did not shy away from confronting this stuff, though I couldn’t quite buy the notion that seven years’ exposure to it would turn a person into a fundamentalist hater who wants to send us all to heaven.
So it’s worth taking in for the imagery and some of the ideas, but it’s narratively deeply flawed.