Spoiler Points for Sunshine (2007)


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Spoiler Points for Sunshine (2007) [R] 108 minutes

If you would like to read a complete review without spoilers, please click here.
Sunshine is a difficult film to review extensively without spoiling the plot because the turning point of what makes this film so good is one that shouldn't be revealed to people who want the surprise when they see the film. Yet, one cannot discuss how truly potent this is without giving it away. So, hence, the beauty of the spoiler points. Read on only with caution and knowing that this major revelation will be stated.

As the crew of the Icarus 2 is left with the decision to either stay on mission or rendezvous with Icarus 1, the Captain (Hiroyuki Sanada) puts the final word in the hands of Capa (Cillian Murphy). After much mental deliberation and computer simulation all of which leads him to conclude that there is no scientific way of making the best decision. There are too many positive and negative ramifications of either decision to the point at coin toss determinant would be just as viable, he decides that the bottom line is that two payloads would be better than having just one. That way of one payload bomb failed, there would be a back up. So, with that decision made, Capa suddenly becomes the man responsible for everything that happens next. The first thing is that Trey (Benedict Wong), the navigator, performs all of the necessary calculations to permit the rendezvous but forgets the most important thing. He forgets to adjust the shields to match, so the crew wakes up to find their ship under assault from meteorites that end up damaging 4 mirror panels in their solar shield. The only way to assess the damage and fix the shield will be to go out side and take a look. Capa and Captain Kaneda lead the expedition and manage to fix the shields but not until such point as the Captain is lost to the rotation of the shield and his exposure to the sun's raw radiant energy which, at this distance cause nearly instantaneous incineration. Mace (Chris Evans) is furious, because he never agreed with the decision to deviate from the mission, and he blames Capa. This causes constant friction between the two. Their onscreen chemistry is well-played as the two butt heads throughout. Additional damage to the ship including the total loss of the oxygen garden and two communication towers during the repair intensifies the problems the remaining crew will face. Now, the rendezvous seems more critical as there may be surviving plant life aboard that they could use to generate the oxygen needed for to complete the mission let alone the probably futile attempt to return to earth. Trey, also, has had to be sedated due to concerns that he might be suicidal blaming himself for the loss of Kaneda.

Six crewmates remain.

Mace, Capa, Harvey (Troy Garity), and Searle (Cliff Curtis) leave Icarus 2 upon the connection of the airlocks between Icarus 1 and 2 to investigate leaving Trey in sick bay and Cassie (Rose Byrne) and Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) to handle the helm. This is a risky and precarious mission, but one that would prove far worse than just the elements of the natural universe could supply, for aboard Icarus 2, the crew will discover later, one member has survived the 6+ years aboard the ship, the Captain. And, it turns out that the Icarus did not fail because of forces of nature, it failed due to sabotage carried out by Captain Pinbacker (Mark Strong) who believes that God does not want the mission to succeed because the death of the sun will mean the end of all life on earth and a return of his lost souls to heaven. The arrogance and mania of this man are hard to stomach at times. However, none of this is known to the crew yet for Pinbacker sneaks back aboard the Icarus 2, somehow, realizing that for his mission to succeed, he must sabotage the second ship too. As he transfers ships, he destroys the airlock, ending the recent joy of discovery of a fully growing oxygen garden alive on Icarus. With the airlock destroyed and only one space suit in the hold, Capa is selected by Mace overruling Harvey, the second in command and therefore new captain, to wear the suit as he's the only one who can deploy and arm the payload—which seems kind of like bad planning, doesn't it, to have only one person capable of completing the most mission-critical task? Mace then realizes that when the Icarus 2 hull door is opened at the same time as that of Icarus, the men should be blown out the from one ship to the other. His plan is for them to wrap themselves in insulation and pray they don't freeze to death. One man will have to stay behind to operate the airlock. Searle volunteers after an ugly altercation where Harvey orders Capa out of the suit arguing that the captain is needed alive to complete the mission. When the hull doors are open, the plan works perfectly, except that Harvey's trajectory is off and he floats too far out of Capa's reach to be thrown into the ship. He is lost, freezes, and then is incinerated. Searle, still on Icarus, is comforted by Cassie as she maneuvers Icarus 2 out of position with Icarus 1. He commits suicide by sitting in the observation lounge and letting the sun's full radiant power incinerate him.

Five crewmates remain.

Corazon run calculations and finds insufficient oxygen remains on the ship to sustain the lives of five crew until the deployment point. Someone has got to go. Mace calls for a unanimous vote to kill off Trey. The vote is 3 to 1, Cassie abstains. As Mace goes to kill Trey, they find he's committed suicide, or so they believe, and their problems are solved, for the time being.

Four crewmates remain.

That is until Capa asks Icarus some questions when testing the package and discovers that there will be insufficient oxygen for him to complete his mission due to the fact that…dah…dah…dum…there are still five human beings on board. What? Yes, the fifth person is in the observation room. Now, why Capa does not alert the rest of the crew prior to him boldly going to investigate, is one of those head-scratching problems with the script. But, Capa doesn't and this turns out to be another huge mistake on his part because he runs head on into Captain Pinbacker who tries to kill him. After narrowly escaping, by sealing himself in an airlock from which he can now no longer get out of, Capa tries to communicate the presence of Pinbacker to the crew. Pinbacker, meanwhile, goes on a rampage and kills Corazon with a scalpel in the back just as she has discovered one tiny green sprout has started to grow in the destroyed oxygen garden.

Three crewmates and one Pinbacker remain.

As Pinbacker proceeds, his plan now is to sabotage Icarus (the computer system) thus rendering the ship inert just as he did his own ship. He does so by raising the mainframe up out of its coolant tanks. This immediately shuts down power and systems throughout the ship alerting Mace and Cassie that something is wrong. Mace searches madly and finds Capa trapped in the airlock. He communicates with him via the headset in the suit. Capa tells him that Pinbacker is alive on the ship. Made rushes to the mainframe room and attempts to get Icarus back on line. He lowers two of three cores into the coolant manually, causing himself to have to take coolant baths that eventually freeze him to death when he gets trapped beneath the third mainframe core during its lowering process.

Two crewmates and one Pinbacker remain.

The Icarus 2 now must be separated into payload and ship modules to succeed. Somehow, Capa manages to figure out how to escape, completes the separation, and the ship module is destroyed. Miraculously, Cassie and Pinbacker happen to already be on the bomb module. Capa narrowly makes it across the gap in space between the two. If you count the supposed 14 seconds he has before the bomb module engines ignite hurtling the bomb into the sun, he doesn't make it. But, apparently, time stand still, allowing him to make it just fine. The engines ignite blasting the ship into the sun just as he gets inside. He runs in, removes the suit, and finds Cassie and Pinbacker. He brawls with Pinbacker, ultimately leading to Pinbacker's death.

Two crewmates remain.

Cassie instructs Capa to go and set off the bomb. He initiates the sequence, and shortly thereafter, beautiful fusion reactions occur in the region above him. After a few moments, the bomb ignites and time stands still. We see Capa frozen in time as the reactions eventually consume him and the entire payload.

Zero crewmates remain.

Next, we see a snow covered Sydney, Australia with the famous Opera House in the distance, and Capa's sister, niece, and nephew playing in the snow. His voice in the background reminding them if the day is particularly beautiful, then they will know his mission was a success.

Cillian Murphy does an absolutely stunning job with his character. He really is the star of the film, and his character has to somehow handle the pressure of holding the entire fate of humanity on his shoulders. And not just humanity, but that of all living creatures on the earth. Capa makes the decision to dock up with Icarus 1. When this decision leads to all hell breaking lose it is on his hands as Mace makes all too clear in the graphic scene where they discover Trey's body in a pool of blood. So, the burden and will to survive, correct his mistakes, and complete the mission become the driving forces that motivate him to completion. He demonstrates bravery as a character that he probably didn't know he possessed.

It was very compelling to watch each character deal with the catastrophic events with clear lines between every member of the crew being willing to make sacrifices with the exception of Harvey, whom we could come to see following the a similar destiny as Pinbacker.

When it comes to the physics of the film, it's hard to imagine there are not some big issues, the greatest of which would be that the sun's gravitational field would be so great, it's hard to imagine how their ship could possibly survive as close as it gets. But, we'll leave that for the physicists to debate, and post about if they like. It would be interesting to hear from physicists as to any and all scientifically inaccurate or improbable parts to this mission for the sake of posterity and accuracy.

Biologically, it made no sense to me why they would waste what little oxygen they had. They should have sealed off compartments and moved the air to certain regions of the ship. Meanwhile, why would they not bring back up seeds to grow? They'd have to realize the potential for the loss of the garden and if this is their only source of oxygen, seeds take up relatively little space and oxygen themselves. Why not bring a spare?

Computer Glitches
Why doesn't Icarus notice that Trey's calculations have not included an altering of the shield?

Why doesn't Icarus notice that Pinbacker is back on the ship and alert the crew?
Wouldn't it seem like an alert of an additional life sign would have been in its programming and an important thing?

Why would they design the mainframe computer so that it could be removed from the coolant tanks if removal causes it to overheat and become destroyed?

Other Ideas and Comments
Please if you have other thoughts about this film, feel free to post comments. People have been having loads of fun posting on the meaning and ending of 1408. Sunshine does not leave those sorts of doubts, but it is a marvelous film for discussion purposes.


Jason said...

Icarus did not inform them of the improper shield angle because Trey took Icarus off line and made the calculations himself....

Anonymous said...

It would still be number one over-riding priority of Icarus to be able to contrl shields because without shields there is no mission. So logically it would require more than just one person to tamper and override the computer when it comes to shields.

I also had questions about that, and Icarus' mainframe should not be so easily accessible, the inclusion of anew biological entity in the Icarus spacecraft should also be alerted at once.

BUT of course this is just a movie....

Chris evans rock!

Dallas said...

I assume the mainframe was able to be removed from the coolant in case it needed repairs. Being out of the coolant wouldn't be a problem if that part of the computer was shut down for repair.

The thing I thought was strange, is that icarus was aware of a stranger on board and she never mentioned it. On one hand, maybe the programmers figured an intruder wasn't really possible, so they didn't feel the need to have an alert for that. On the other hand, however, icarus was aware that the mission was in jeopardy and didn't just come straight out and say it. Seems weird to me.

rowan said...

One thing i noticed was the shield is on the bomb...correct? and without the shield blocking the ship, it becomes destroyed correct? So when they get to the sun and release the bomb, they supposidly just fly away...without said shield, that is now hurtling towards the sun...by this token, it was always a suicide mission.

Besides this, its still impossible, but it is a very entertaining movie. You dont need to know physics to know that the reaction that goes on within the sun is the most powerful witnessed by man. I mean it freaking fuses smaller atoms and nuclei together. But anywho, i loved it

Anonymous said...

There was a 4 minute delay from the time the bomb separated from the ship and the engines fired sending the bomb into the sun. If the ship was still working properly, I assume that 4 minute gap was their time to escape using the bomb's 'shadow' to shield them as they got a safe distance away.
What confused me was the Captain of Icarus I. He seemed at times to be infused with supernatural powers from his overexposure to the sun.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else notice the smaller shield attached to the front of the Icarus? You could see it after the bomb was released and separated from the ship.

Tony said...

As for physics problems: there really were only two.

The gravity of the sun that close to it is not the issue - the ship is in freefall at all times. The ship is also too small to be strongly affected by tides.

Problem #1: during the shield-repair spacewalk they were only a little closer to the sun than mercury. At that distance the sunlight would only be about ten times as intense as here. Sure you wouldn't want to stay in it that long, but surely no instant incineration. As they got closer the sunlight WOULD have been as dangerous as it became in the late movie - I calculated that at their PLANNED closest approach they would've gotten 1500+ times as much light as we get here.

Problem #2: the orbital mechanics were terrible. A slingshot does not involve going into orbit, and the energy required to go from their sunward trajectory to the circular orbit of Icarus I would've been truly stupendous.

Other than that - I really like this movie!