That Moment In ‘Sunshine’ (2007): Kaneda Welcomes His Fate
A closer look at this crucial moment in this sci-fi thriller.
Sunshine is a 2007 sci-fi adventure about a near future where a small team of scientists are on a dangerous mission to try and reignite our dying Sun.
In the name of entertainment, movies have taken plenty of liberties bending logic, doing away with a lot of smart stuff in order to make a premise work. If you’ve seen 2003’s The Core, you pretty much get the idea, this being one of the best (worst?) recent examples of science tossed out the window for the sake of escapism. And it wasn’t even any good.
There are many films though that have made great effort in being as scientifically sound as possible, attempting to give stories a better sense of authenticity, with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1969 and Christopher Nolan‘s 2014’s Interstellar being a few notable titles that earned acclaim for such attention to detail. Also, their just great movies.
With Danny Boyle‘s epic thriller Sunshine, science was the inspiration, and while the premise is theoretical, much of the film works to be as genuine as possible, even while some parts are left as implied workable engineering, such as the Earth-like gravity on the ship. Certainly, the science of it all isn’t the focus of the story, but it does layer the peripheral in some depth.
The story sees the Earth in peril as the Sun is dying, its cause not explained in the actual film but discussed on the commentary track by the movie’s science advisor Brian Cox as becoming infected by a Q-ball, a theoretical particle left over from the Big Bang. A ship called Icarus I was sent to deliver an enormous nuclear bomb but disappeared and has not been heard from for seven years. Icarus II is the planet’s last hope, a massive ship with a second bomb as big as Manhattan Island strapped on board. The plan: drop it into the star and hope the explosion triggers a second life.
With a crew of eight, they make their way to the Sun, and while completing a ‘slingshot’ around Mercury, discover the Icarus I adrift and the possiblity that it might have survivors. Naturally, a contentious debate breaks out about a rescue, as it would jeopardize their own mission, but the prospect of two bombs rather than one is compelling. And a great moment is born.
Facing The Sun
The ship is of course staffed by a variety of diverse characters, including the ship’s doctor Searle (Cliff Curtis), who had become obsessed with the Sun itself, spending hours in the observation deck watching it. The Captain is Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), who is influenced greatly by the engineer, Mace (Chris Evans), himself an extremely level-headed and mission-focused officer. Cassie (Rose Byrne) is the ship’s pilot, and Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) is the biologist who tends to the large eco-garden supplying the vessel with oxygen. Trey (Benedict Wong) is the navigator and Harvey (Troy Garity) is the communications officer.
Lastly is Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy), the onboard physicist who operates the bomb device and is a bit of an outsider from the group, generally lingering in orbit around them, mostly in silence. Much to his dismay though, much rides on his decision-making, and when it comes to changing trajectory, the choice falls on him. His reaction to doing so is one of great frustration.