Ralph Fiennes is an actor I hold in a fairly high regard. He is though an actor who I feel is at his best when he is stretching himself in some way. Whether that is mining the depths of madness in Spider, bringing to life a disturbing real evil in Schindler's List, or his two brilliant largely comic turns of In Bruges and The Grand Budapest Hotel. In those performances Fiennes is more than sort of the generalized European leading man, which is not how he started, however it is how he gained some notoriety through his turn in The English Patient. Now, as the more expected role Fiennes is far from an underwhelming actor, he's good in "Patient", but it isn't the type of work that I consider to be Fiennes at his best. Of course, Sunshine does fall into the latter group, however the change here being he plays not one European romantic lead, but three. Here playing the three generations of men of a Jewish family that is slowly ingratiating itself into the Hungarian culture, potentially by losing their own heritage for the sake of upward mobility.
We then witness the turn of the man as he becomes more intense and bitter, as his family questions his support for the emperor. Fiennes is effective in crafting that bitterness with that trademark intensity of his. The film's approach leaves him a limited range though as we see the parts of his transformation rather than the whole, until we are led with the ailing, angry man, we haven't really felt the changes just the end of it. It's fine work, but the limits are obvious. Well we then recent as we meet Ignatz's son we move to his son Adam, also played by Fiennes. Adam begins in a stronger position in the Hungarian society than Ignatz did, as a soon to be championship fencer. Again we see basically a reset with Fiennes as the humble, more charming man. Fiennes is indeed that once again however there isn't some great distance in character. He doesn't play it exactly the same, however the nature of the roles leaves Fiennes in a very similar part. This as we see the same trajectory as he becomes more confident through his successes, and in turn more intense in his moments of trepidation.