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Film / Sunshine

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"Our sun is dying. Mankind faces extinction.
Seven years ago, the Icarus project sent a mission to restart the sun, but that mission was lost before it reached the star.
Sixteen months ago, I, Robert Capa, and a crew of seven left Earth frozen in a solar winter. Our payload: a stellar bomb with a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island. Our purpose: to create a star within a star.
Eight astronauts strapped to the back of a bomb. My bomb. Welcome to Icarus II."
Robert Capa

Sunshine is a 2007 science-fiction psychological thriller film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland, starring an ensemble cast led by Cillian Murphy and featuring Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Benedict Wong.note 

In the year 2050, the Sun is dying and on the brink of being destabilized by dark energy, which will instigate a new ice age for Earth. Scientists conclude that an experimental stellar bomb payload, with a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island, can jump-start the sun. The Icarus I, a spaceship with advanced heat shielding and a sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI), is tasked with transporting the payload, but the mission fails and the ship disappears.

Seven years later, a second attempt is made with the Icarus II; the film follows the crew on this ship as they set out to finish the mission as mankind's last hope for survival. The crew consists of Dr. Robert Capa (Murphy), the physicist who operates the stellar bomb device; Captain Kaneda (Sanada), the ship's captain; Mace (Evans), the ship's engineer; Dr. Searle (Curtis), the ship's counselor and medical officer; Cassie (Byrne), the ship's pilot and emotional tether; Trey (Wong), the ship's tech-savvy navigator; Harvey (Troy Garity), the first officer and communication specialist; and Corazón (Yeoh), the biologist who maintains the ship's "oxygen garden".

While the film appears to be a bog-standard sci-fi apocalyptic disaster movie on the surface, it can be summarized more accurately as a slow, melancholic character study that's somewhat philosophical in tone. However, it failed to make its budget back and is often overlooked due to its premise, which sounds like The Core but in THE SUN.

Not to be confused with the 1999 film of the same name, or Sunburn, an earlier and lesser-known film starring Murphy.

Tropes in this film:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • Averted. Icarus II's on-board computer is important to the film, yet does its job exactly as it's supposed to, responds properly to override commands, and trying to save it (as opposed to trying to stop it) is an important part of the film's climax.
    • The solar shield repair sequence at least hints at it:
      Icarus: Resuming computer control of Icarus II.
      Cassie: Negative, Icarus. Manual control.
      Icarus: Negative, Cassie. Computer control.
      Cassie: Icarus, override computer to manual control.
      Icarus: Negative. Mission in jeopardy. Override command statement "manual flight controls" removed.
      Cassie: Negative, Icarus, negative. State reason immediately.
      Icarus: Fire in oxygen garden.
    • Though arguably, this is what Icarus is for, operating the spacecraft more safely than a human could manage. Trey proved that when he overrode Icarus and put the mission in jeopardy in the first place.
  • All There in the Manual: The film is often Misblamed for having a premise as ridiculous as The Core, but they did in fact get Brian Cox to theorise a plausible way in which the sun's dimming could happen - there's a Q-ballnote  within the sun, a particle that disrupts the sun's natural fusion cycle. The bomb is powerful enough to destroy the Q-ballnote . Unfortunately, the movie's reputation is marred by the fact this is never mentioned onscreen.
    • A lot of character backstories were written but not included in the final film:
      • Capa was a Child Prodigy who wrote a paper that contributed huge amounts to the understanding of Dark Matter; his theory ended up starting the whole Icarus mission in the first place. He's also an atheist and loner by choice. And the only member of the crew that isn't a career astronaut.
      • Cassie is a trained pilot who entered the space program after serving time in the military. Before the Icarus mission she became pregnant but got an abortion in secret. Searle is the only other crew member who knows this.
      • Corazon is a pragmatist dedicated to preserving life as a whole - more concerned with ensuring the survival of Earth as a biosphere as opposed to mankind. She's the only one of the crew to never have used the Earth room; instead she sits in the oxygen garden for comfort.
      • Harvey worked as a juvenile engineer on the Icarus I project, and is the fittest member of the group. His Achilles' Heel however is his wife; he dreams of her every night and is motivated by trying to get back to her.
      • Kaneda is a Buddhist who feels a Team Dad attitude towards the crew, especially Capa, and they often play chess together. He is the only crew member to have ever met Pinbacker personally, and as such has nightmares of him every night.
      • Trey was a hacker in his teen years and managed to create a virus that wiped out 12% of the world's computer systems temporarily. Instead of jail, he was recruited by the space program. He's also a Control Freak who hates for any variables to be calculated by anyone but him. This adds extra dimension to his guilt at messing up the numbers when the mission was diverted.
      • Searle is on the crew because he put forth a theory that the first mission failed due to There Are No Therapists - and he himself developed the Earth Room as a means of therapy. He's also a psychiatrist as opposed to a psychologistnote 
      • Mace is an army brat and came to know Cassie from the military - and still harbours a small crush on her. As someone with an immense respect for the chain of command, he dislikes Capa because he exists outside of it.
  • Alone with the Psycho: At the end of the movie, Capa is one of, we at that moment presume, four living crew members left on the space ship. Then this conversation of his with Icarus happens, after which he is left alone with the psycho, murdering Pinbacker.
    [Capa is arguing with the computer as to why there is not enough oxygen left]
    Capa: Affirmative, Icarus, four crew: Mace, Cassie, Corazon and me.
    Capa: ...Icarus...
    Icarus: Yes?
    Capa: Who is the fifth crew member?
    Icarus: Unknown.
    Capa: ...Where is the fifth crew member?
    Icarus: In the observation room.
  • Anyone Can Die: And everyone of the crew involved does.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The crew find one made by Pinbacker, the commander of Icarus I.
    Pinbacker: We have abandoned our mission. Our star is dying. All our science, all our hopes, our dreams, are foolish in the face of this. We are dust, nothing more. Unto this dust, we return. When he chooses for us to die, it is not our place to challenge God.
  • Arc Words: "We are dust."
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The space crew finds relaxation and comfort on their long way towards the sun by using personalized 3D holodeck programs which place them in a forest or other familiar environments.
  • Artistic License – Space: The first Icarus supposedly vanished on its mission and no one knew where to. Even without communications or radar, Earth-based telescopes exist that can image objects out at the Earth-sun distance far smaller than the Icarus shown in the film. Astronomers should have been able to track every moment of Icarus I's lifetime. If it disappeared, they would know exactly where it disappeared and where it was headed.
  • Badass Bookworm: Mace. Presumably one of the top computer engineers on Earth, his job is to be able to repair computer circuitry so complicated it had to be designed by other computers. In a way, all of the characters are this, for getting on the ship in the first place, but Mace quickly runs away with the title.
  • Bald of Evil: Pinbacker, now that his hairline has been seared away.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Cassie is hiding from Pinbacker when the ship's lights suddenly come on. Pinbacker's hand immediately smashes through the glass to grab Trey's dead body, giving Cassie a chance to stab Pinbacker before he realises his mistake.
  • Bathos: After Trey's death Mace chews Capa out for everything that's gone wrong, resulting in a mini fist fight. After they're done, Corazon coldly tells them not to exert too much oxygen - since their supply is limited.
  • Beard of Sorrow/Important Haircut: Mace has a stubbly beard and unkempt hair, showing that he's suffering from lowered morale. When he finally gets control of himself, he shows up clean-shaven, with a fresh buzzcut.
  • Big Blackout: The lights go out when Icarus computer is shut down.
  • Bittersweet Ending: And just short of Shoot the Shaggy Dog because Capa actually succeeded in detonating the bomb and restarting the Sun; however, all the events in the movie could have been avoided have they not deviated from their plan to retrieve the Icarus I's bomb as not only was Icarus I's main computer useless, and thus unable to be used, but in the end, it was not even needed.
  • Bloody Handprint: These, and bloody footprints, are left behind by Pinbacker wherever he goes. Also a signal that he's already beaten Capa to the payload.
  • Body Horror:
    • Pinbacker's extreme exposure to the Sun has cooked his flesh. The burning is so bad that, during a fight scene, the skin on one of his arms is torn off.
    • As his obsession with the sun deepens, Searle also displays signs of bad sunburn- and though it's not nearly as bad as Pinbacker's, it's still pretty gross: following Kaneda's death, he can clearly be seen picking bits of skin off his face; while observing the sun later, his lips seem livid and bloody, and his face and neck are clearly blistered in places.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Mace insists things aren't his problem, but it is justified considering the entire human race is depending on them; despite his persistence, however, everyone else votes there's always hope until it comes to deciding Trey's fate.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mace. He's not predicting the future, rather just a path of action the crew should take, and is dismissed most of the time. He's proven right through the movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mace drops the spanner in the coolant tank and freeze-burns his hand trying to get it out. The computer warns him that the mainframe panel can't stay out of the coolant for long. This makes the scene where Mace has to dive bodily into the coolant tank to repair the mainframe panel all that more excruciating to watch.
    • When Mace goes to kill Trey, there are already two scalpels missing from the drawer. Presumably Trey took one, but who took the other? Answer: Pinbacker
  • Cold Equation: Most crew members consistently do this given the circumstances, but Mace most notably. He states that they should not deviate from the original mission to attempt a rescue on the Icarus I, due to the risk involved. In fact, in just about every major decision from thereon after, he provides the most logical solution, and is always right.
    • Done (on a literal level) by Icarus early on; the computer risks the lives of Kanada and Capa, as their lives do not take priority over the fire rapidly depleting the long-term oxygen stores.
    • When four of the crewman are trapped on Icarus I and there's only one spacesuit, Mace and Searle immediately start putting Capa (the only man who can fire the bomb) into the suit, ignoring the protests of their commander. Mace though figures out how to Take a Third Option (though only he and Capa survive).
    • Then the crew realise they only have enough oxygen to complete their mission if one of them dies. The suicidally depressed Trey is an obvious candidate to be killed, and all but one of the crew votes to do so. Although they'd previously decided they needed a unanimous vote, Mace goes to kill him anyway only to find he's already dead.
  • Concept Video: Linkin Park's "Leave Out All the Rest" from Minutes to Midnight was used in the soundtrack. The video for the song features the band members on the rocket in the film, flying toward the sun.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Interpreting the sun as having an active deific quality as several characters do and the film easily falls into this genre.
  • Credits Gag: The Fox Searchlight logo is played in reverse, ending with the city background before zooming in on the sun.
  • Cue the Sun: The film's finale in which a sunbeam from the newly ignited sun hits the frozen waters of Sydney.
  • David Versus Goliath: Capa versus Pinbacker.
  • Death by Pragmatism: An unusual example where both options are pretty pragmatic: Mace wishes to keep going and leave the Icarus I untouched because it is not known what made the mission stop and if it's a (possibly irreparable) mechanical failure, then they have wasted precious time going out of the way (on top of everything else that happens eventually). The counter-proposal points out an important thing: there are no other bombs available, and no way of knowing (even theoretically) if just one bomb will be enough, so getting the other bomb is just making sure that the mission will work (on a worst case scenario, best case being just doubling up on their chances). Everything goes to hell from the moment they plot the course change.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Mace
  • Democracy Is Flawed: When the crew is discussing the option of diverting the mission to intercept the Icarus I so they can retrieve the payload and possibly save their crew if they are still alive, Mace wants to put it up to a vote. Searle points out that they are in no way a democracy — they're a group of astronauts and scientists on a mission to save mankind. Therefore, they shouldn't make an arbitrary decision based on popular consensus but strive to make the most informed decision possible. The team member who is best qualified to understand the theory and complexities of the payload delivery is Capa, their theoretical physicist. He makes the decision to intercept.
  • Determinator: Part of what makes the story stand out despite having all the setup of your generic "small group of quirky people on suicidal mission to save mankind" is the fact the entire crew sans one member is made of Determinators, fully accepting they have virtually no chance of surviving this, but the mission is far, far more important than their personal issues or even lives. This removes a lot of false, flat drama stories like this usually involve.
  • Deus ex Nukina:
    • Humanity constructs a nuclear device so big that virtually all of Earth's accessible fissile material went into making it. However, nuclear technology is only a part of the bomb. In the context of the movie, the device seems to be very theoretical, and very reliant on technology/equations going far beyond what we know now.
    • Their real target is a lump of theoretical matter at the center, called a Q-ball, which is moderating the fusion reaction and will eventually stop it entirely. They hoped that the bomb could transmute or destroy it, thus allowing fusion to get going again. If it turns out that a Q-ball really can exist, that'd make it scientifically pretty accurate actually.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Pinbacker's log entry about a miniature meteor shower which almost barbecued his crew.
  • Distress Call: The Icarus I's distress beacon.
  • Driven to Suicide: Trey is found in this state. Danny Boyle's commentary reveals that Pinbacker murdered Trey and made it look like a suicide. The actor and the advisor disagree and state that Trey killed himself, citing that Pinbacker would not be sane enough to stage it as a suicide, as well as mistaking the body later for Cassie's.
  • Dwindling Party: In order of death: Kaneda, Harvey, Searle, Trey, Corazon, Mace, and Cassie.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Subverted. In the final scene, the Real Life view is dominated by the Kaknäs Tower, Stockholm's tallest building at 155 metres, and one of its most famous landmarks. However, the tower was digitally deleted, and replaced by the Sydney Opera House, properly displaying the Endless Winter.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: The Icarus computer can't talk properly if taken out of the coooolannnt...
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The dying sun will end all life on Earth if it isn't averted.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: When the movie ends, every member of the crew of Icarus I and Icarus II—that is to say, the entire cast of the movie—are dead. All except Capa are, directly or indirectly, murdered by Pinbacker.note 
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Pinbacker.
  • Evil Is Visceral: The villain of this film looks like a disgruntled Slim Goodbody.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Decoupling and detonating the bomb before the Icarus reaches the sun.
  • Expositron 9000: The Icarus computer... isn't one. An interesting aversion that forces the characters to make an ultimately bad call.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Mace is willing to murder Trey to give the remaining crewmembers enough oxygen to complete the mission, but considering the stakes (the survival of mankind) he's presented as completely correct.
    Mace: Nothing, literally, NOTHING, is more important than our mission. End of story!
  • Fatal Family Photo: The crew photo of the original Icarus I gang. As their sister crew boards the ship, their overexposed, smiling faces briefly flicker on the screen.
  • Female Gaze: Capa getting into his spacesuit. It's a lot sexier than it sounds.
  • Flash Freezing Coolant: The ship's mainframe panel needs this kind of coolant at all times, as the ship warns; Mace gets freeze-burns just dipping his hand in retrieving a dropped spanner. Things get much worse when he needs to repair the panel, and thus has to outright dive into the stuff to work.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Characters all die in a way relevant to their interests/role as previously shown: Mace freezes in the coolant he worked with, Searle burns in the presence of the sun he was obsessed with, Corazon in the garden she tended for and Capa in the bomb he wished he could see.
    • There's also the fact that both Cassie and Capa have had recurring nightmares of falling into the sun several times during the beginning of the film. They're the only two to survive long enough to deliver the payload, falling into the sun like in the dream.
    • Capa coldly states that in relation to one crewmember's suicidal tendencies versus the whole of the human race is nothing. In the finale he does not hesitate to sacrifice himself to throw the bomb to save humanity.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble:
    • Cynical: Mace (wants to pass the Icarus I without stopping) And they should have listened to him.
    • Optimistic: Searle (wants to board the Icarus I) and Cassie (doesn't want Trey to die despite the cost otherwise)
    • Realistic: Capa and Trey (the only two who actually calculate and solve the Icarus I situation)
    • Apathetic: Harvey (later prioritizes self preservation over Capa despite their actual uses)
    • Conflicted: Kaneda and Corazon (both generally neutral)
  • Freudian Trio: Once three crew members have died, Trey is kept sedated, and there are four other crew members remaining functioning, it becomes clear that there isn't enough oxygen for five people. A discussion ensues about whether or not to kill Trey (sacrifice one human to save the rest of humankind). Herein, Cassie is The McCoy (against killing Trey, even knowing the consequences), Mace and Corazon are The Spock (coldly stating that killing Trey is the only option; Corazon even shoves a computer printout of raw statistical data on the table as her answer), and Capa is The Kirk, first calling Mace out for his harshness and cynicism; but also voting for killing Trey in the end himself.
  • The Fundamentalist: Pinbacker serves as our resident terrorist IN SPACE. He will stop at nothing to derail Icarus II.
  • Geek Physiques: Capa, who is the physicist of the group, and the thinnest. This puts him in contrast to Captain Kaneda and Mace, who are considerably buffer.
  • Genre Shift: The movie begins as a fairly hard sci-fi, No Antagonist movie where the biggest threat was the existential dread the crew had on their mission to reignite the sun, to a Slasher Movie where they get killed one-by-one by an Implacable Man.
  • Glacial Apocalypse: The Sun is inexplicably going out, gradually causing the Earth to freeze into a snowball and become uninhabitable. The plot revolves around a group of astronauts sent to try and reignite the Sun with a massive bomb to avert this fate.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Pinbacker lost his mind after glimpsing the sun for too long. In his final log entry, he announces the termination of the Icarus I mission, and we see that he's already covered in third-degree burns by that point (though he still has hair). Searle is a glimpse into that slippery slope; he opens the film cheerfully basking in the sun's rays, and soon becomes addicted.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The heavily burned Pinbacker appears only in blurred, distant or very brief shots. Later averted when skin is graphically torn from his arm.
  • Ghost Ship: The Icarus I.
  • The Heart: Cassie is the most empathic and caring of the group. She also merges this with Only Sane Man, as she never gets into fights with the others, despite her opinions clashing with theirs.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Plenty. Kaneda, then Searle, then not Harvey, then Mace, and finally Capa. It could be argued that the whole crew gets a credit for this trope. Once they realize there's hardly enough oxygen to get to the detonation point near the sun, let alone to make the trip back to Earth, they all accept gracefully that they will die to save the human race.
  • Hollywood Science:
    • Danny Boyle intended to leave out things like visible stars, slow-motion zero gravity, and sound in space, but left them in because the movie just didn't feel right otherwise. The science is actually about fifty-fifty. The oxygen garden is a very likely component of long distance space travel. In an actual space ship, the crew would be able to hear the ship creaking from the inside, as they did in the movie. The "Dead Zone" around the sun is Truth in Television; recall that the primary effect of solar flares is to disrupt electronic communications like HAM and AM radios. The way that two crewmen escaped Icarus I without spacesuits is also scientifically plausible, though just as unlikely to work perfectly as it was in the movie. Also, try not to think about the effects of gravity in the climactic scene.
    • In a scene that was left out of the movie, but can be seen in the DVD extras, Capa explains that the payload generates its own gravity. What was left in the movie was another scene in which Capa explains that the payload will move at such a speed in its final moments that close to the sun, that all physics in fact will get… wonky. Perhaps not enough info for it to be a Chekhov's Gun, but enough so that from the movie's perspective, it's not that unexpected.
    • The science advisor, Professor Brian Cox - PhD, OBE, D:Ream - said that he would tell them how thing would really happen and where they were going wrong, but then it was up to Danny Boyle et al decide on it, and if the story was better off if they bent the real science, that's what they did. He considered that the right way to do it.
    • The sun only looks like a flaming ball when viewed through special filters/computerized images. Depicting exterior shots with a sun like that is forgetting the fact that with all the visible light a star puts out at the local system range, you wouldn't see anything, you'd literally be blinded by all the light. This is depicted somewhat in-story when one of the crew members asks to have the viewport filters turned down by a small fraction and the room is almost completely washed out by all the extra light.
  • Icarus Allusion: The spaceship designers don't believe in Tempting Fate, it seems.
  • Infinite Supplies: Subverted. Once the oxygen garden is destroyed, Harvey grimly says that there isn't enough oxygen to even get them all to the sun due to the fire. After they're unable to get anything from Icarus I's garden, four of the remaining crewmembers agree to kill the suicidal Trey so there's enough to get them to the delivery point. Pinbacker's presence and killing of Trey makes this a moot point, although his killing of Corazon reduces the crew to the point where they're able to make it to the delivery point regardless.
  • Implacable Man: Pinbacker compensates for his slow gait through his intimate knowledge of Icarus II's systems.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Averted.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Mace's function is to say a lot of dickish things that are actually true.
  • Kill It with Fire: A literal case of fighting fire with fire. When a fire breaks out in the garden that supplies the spaceship's oxygen the computer predicts it will burn for hours, endangering the entire ship. The decision is made to flood the garden with oxygen, causing a flash fire which consumes all the oxygen at once, thereby extinguishing the fire. Of course this just leads to more problems.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Paranoid Harvey rants that the crew's out to get him, being that he's the communications officer in a dead zone of space and thus excess baggage. His corpse later collides into the ship's antenna.
  • Latex Space Suit: Averted big time. Due to the extreme proximity to the Sun, the spacesuits used in the mission are very bulky, have hardly any visor and are golden on the outside. If they weren't clearly spacesuits, they could easily pass for light Powered Armor at face value.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: "I don't think that's such a good idea."
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • The awesome sight of the sun drives several characters insane. Its rays burn flesh and threaten to torch the whole spaceship. Ironically, the story is about a dying sun and the Earth's desperate need to restore its life-supporting rays.
    • We never get a good look at Pinbacker, partly due to the crew's delirium and also because of his portrayal as a "being of light".
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Harvey's frozen corpse collides with Icarus II's antenna, shattering his arm. The rest of him drifts into direct sunlight, whereupon it crumbles to dust.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Justified. Capa locks himself in the airlock to escape Pinbacker, who then locks the hatch from the outside so Capa can't get out. However there are tools in the airlock used for EVA repairs, which Capa uses to escape.
  • Logo Joke + Bait-and-Switch: The FOX Searchlight logo plays backwards, ending on a shot of the Sun, which turns out to be the Sun reflected in the Icarus II heat shield.
  • Million to One Chance: The crew is perfectly aware that, once the Icarus II reaches the Sun's horizon, everything about the mission goes into the realm of the theoretical. Not even the computer can calculate the outcome. It works, of course. However this becomes a plot point. Because the odds of success are so unpredictable, Capa figures that having a second bomb could only improve those odds.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film is notorious for how much its third act contrasts in mood and theme to the first two.
    • Within a single scene, Kaneda’s death goes from an epic, if tragic Heroic Sacrifice, to horrific as Kaneda begins screaming from being swallowed by the sun, and Cassie and Trey are clearly horrified.
  • Multinational Team: Based on ideas of where the global community's space programs would be in 70 years, the Icarus mission is a mix of Americans, Chinese, and Japanese astronauts. The first Icarus ship had Pinbacker, who was apparently supposed to be South African (his accent is easier to place in his recording).
  • Neck Lift: Pinbacker effortlessly hoists Capa and shakes him like a rag doll. Justified due to the comparatively low gravity of the payload room.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film's TV ads pitched it as a horror film. In truth the horror element is something of a twist near the end of the film.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Pinbaker's blasé log entry regarding a pin-sized meteor shower which nearly scuttled the ship, killed the crew, and ended the human race. He even describes it as "beautiful", which earns an eyebrow raise from fellow Captain Kaneda.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Removing the main computer from its coolant bath causes the lights to go out. So much for redundant systems.
    • The ship as a whole is remarkably badly lit, either as an office or as an industrial workspace. People need to see what they're doing.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Cassie's full name is actually Cassidy, as shown by her name badge. Even the Icarus computer calls her 'Cassie'.
    • Corazon is also nicknamed 'Corrie' by most of the others.
  • Only Sane Man: Mace. He may not be the most sensitive guy on the ship but everything he said was true and if they had all just listened to him from the beginning, they might have been okay.
  • Opaque Lenses: Searle's aviator sunglasses, hinting at his increasingly-long periods of staring fixated at the sun.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Trey won't let her into the oxygen garden as it's burning up, Corazon screams at him, "You motherfucker!"
  • Recycled Trailer Music : The trailer uses "Lux Aeterna" from Requiem for a Dream. Conversely, various trailers recycle "Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)", which also pulls duty as the Kick-Ass theme.
  • Reveal Shot: The final scene turns out to be set in Sydney.
  • Sapient Ship: Icarus II, and probably also Icarus I.
  • Science Hero: The entire Icarus II crew, but especially Capa.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The bomb is described as having a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island, or (assuming 1 km depth and the density of granite) about 2.43×10¹⁵ kg. The Sun's mass is just under 2×10³⁰ kg, or a quadrillion times larger. The total amount of energy one could extract from such a bomb would be in the region of 2*10^29 joules, depending on which fuel source was used. The Sun emits that amount of energy roughly every 10 minutes. Additionally, even if the sought after Q-ball were 10 billion times smaller in volume than the Sun (akin to comparing a human to a large amoeba) it would still have a radius of over 300 km.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Necessary due to the nature of the ship's sun shield.
  • Shoot the Dog: The characters eventually resolve to resort to this in order to preserve the mission. They decide to kill their suicidal crewmate in order to leave enough oxygen to complete the mission.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Pinbacker's name is almost certainly a shout out to Sgt. Pinback of Dark Star, a much sillier movie with which Sunshine shares a few themes.
    • The spacesuits? Based on South Park's Kenny.
    • The three monoliths in the final scene can be interpreted as a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is an actual sculpture on set in Stockholm, named Protest, commemorating May Day demonstrations.
    • Captain Kaneda may be a homage to the Shoutarou Kaneda of AKIRA or Gigantor.
  • Shown Their Work: The film is very well-researched. Small details of every aspect of manned space travel (and the projected future of it) appear in the film, from the psychology of a crew living together to the science of astronauts growing their own food onboard a spaceflight.
  • Skeleton Crew: Averted when Capa finds the crew of the Icarus I, huddled together and burned to a crisp in the observation room.
  • Slasher Movie: It certainly flirts with the genre when the homicidal and horribly disfigured Pinbacker appears.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: Danny Boyle responded to criticism on the surreal nature of a burned Pinbacker appearing near the end by stating it was intentional; he did so to break away from the constant focus on realism in the first two acts.
  • Smart People Play Chess: A deleted scene shows Capa beating Kaneda in a game of chess.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: On Kaneda's helmet camera.
  • Solar CPR: The whole point of the mission.
  • Space Is Cold: Among the uncertainties in an Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering scene. Another is that the four crew exploring the wreckage of Icarus I are aware: only three can attempt the jump back to Icarus II. They'll survive… if nothing goes wrong.
  • Space Is Noisy
  • Space Madness: Developing in Searle and particularly evident in Pinbacker.
  • Standard Snippet: The main theme, "Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)" by John Murphy, is in danger of becoming this. It has been used in Kick-Ass as Hit-Girl's theme and the fifth episode of The Walking Dead, and in trailers for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
  • Starship Luxurious: NASA advisors to the movie spoke out in favor of this trope. The cost of roomy quarters, in terms of air and mass, would be more than balanced out by the benefits to a crew's sanity on a long mission. Besides, they were towing a bomb the mass of Manhattan, so a little additional space would hardly be noticeable. As evidenced when they actually go into the part of the ship with the bomb inside, there's plenty of space around the bomb itself… and breathable air, too. Ultimately, the movie retained a submarine-ish feel, but toned it down.
  • Straw Nihilist: The contrast between the Icarus I and Icarus II crews. The former (or at least one of them) succumbed to the bleak sun and decided there was nothing to be gained from reigniting it, even going so far as to believe it's God's will that the sun be left to die. Capa risks becoming as deadened as Pinbacker, but ultimately is awed by the sun. Word of God compares this to the astronomers consulted during the making of this film; when confronted with the vastness of the cosmos, some scientists feel immensely liberated. Others find themselves emotionally crushed.
    Pinbacker: We are nothing… but dust.
  • Stupid Good: After a dramatic incident, it turns out there isn't enough oxygen for the crew to survive and complete the mission. The solution would be to kill one of them, who has gone insane — with his death they would spare enough oxygen to complete their task. They put it to vote, saying they'll only go through with it if the decision's unanimous. The female protagonist, Cassie, takes the moral high ground and refuses to give her consent to the killing. Keep in mind that not only was it the sacrifice of one person versus the destruction of Earth and of the whole human race on it, but that they were all going to die anyway, since they were only trying to buy enough time to deliver their payload to the sun, and had no hope of actually making it back to Earth. The others decide to disregard her feelings and go ahead with the murder without unanimous approval.
  • The Sun Is Just Awesome: Searle in particular believes this, but he's not the only one. When the captain realises he won't get back to the airlock in time, he turns to watch the Sun's fire advancing across the heat shield.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While Cillian Murphy receives top billing and Capa is certainly presented as the main character, Mace is much more the traditional hero.
  • Talking Computer: The Icarus AI.
  • Tempting Fate: Trey is distraught because of his mistake, but when it looks like Kanada has fixed the damage Mace reassures Trey that there's no need to kill himself.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Cassie calls the captain to stop Capa and Mace fighting.
    "We have an excess of manliness in the comm center."
    • Spoofed later when an attempt to renew their fight is cut short by Capa and Mace gasping for breath on their hands and knees; the women walk contemptuously past and tell them to conserve oxygen.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Mace's squicky gesture, emphasizing how he blames Capa for setting in motion the events which led to Trey's suicide.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Happens on three separate occasions.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Harvey misses the airlock and freezes, his corpse hitting an antenna, thus breaking his arm before flying outside the shield, reduced to dust in seconds by the Sun.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The last few minutes of the film are in it.
    • Plus the trailer spoils the fact that Cillian Murphy's character Robert Capa is one of the last four to survive, though most probably saw that coming.
    • One trailer even focuses entirely on the death scenes in an apparent attempt to appeal to the Saw crowd.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The premise might make a bit more sense with some of the background material that uses a real physics-based description (they weren't "restarting" the sun but destroying a particle chunk that was prematurely killing the sun), but there was no way to explain that without invoking this trope. So it was a kind of "screwed either way" situation.
  • What Did You Expect When You Named It ____??: Whose bright idea was it to name the ship going on a mission to the Sun on which the fate of humanity depends the Icarus? And worse, to stick with the name after losing that ship and naming the second one Icarus II? Danny Boyle apparently named it like that on purpose, to keep with the bleak nature of the film and the International aspect of the ship. According to him, "[Americans would] call it Spirit of Hope or Ship of Destiny. They'd call it something optimistic… in America they would sacrifice all plausibility, because there would be hope."
    • Naming the ships after Icarus could also be seen as a subversion, as flying too close to the sun is exactly what the Icarus and Icarus II are supposed to do.
    • During the decoupling scene a symbol can be briefly seen on the heat shield of the part of the ship that was design to return the crew to Earth. The symbol implies that the return module may have been named Phoenix.
  • What Is One Man's Life In Comparison?: The film contains a number of examples, but in one instance a character comes close to saying this trope's name verbatim when the crew is deciding whether to kill a suicidal crewman in order to save oxygen.
  • White Male Lead: Out of the eight main characters, three are Asian and one is Maori, but the main protagonist is played by white actor Cillian Murphy and only one of the first five deaths is a white guy.
  • You Are in Command Now: Harvey, the 2nd in command, is promoted to Captain following Kaneda's death. He's also now become the communications officer of a ship with a useless communications array, which makes him from that point on the most expendable person on board.
    • Word of God states that he is technically proficient enough to perform Mace's, Cassie's, and Trey's responsibilities on an equal level. Truth in Television, astronauts may specialize but they learn each other's jobs as best they can anyway just in case.
    • It doesn't last long, anyway, but it isn't entirely clear who takes over upon his death.
  • Zero-G Spot: Word of God states that some of the original scripts had a a sex scene between Cassie and Capa.