Sunshine in Leith


I had a very enjoyable cinematic experience last night. After work, I ambled down to Ocean Terminal in Leith to watch Sunshine, the new Danny Boyle sci-fi (yes, I know).

Warning: Spoilers 

To set the scene, a handful of boffins are blasted into space on a rather curious mission. Our sun, you see, has started to sputter a little bit, and looks to be in danger of going out. The aforementioned boffins need to detonate a bomb within our beloved star in order to get it going again. Quite a big bomb actually, the size of Manhattan. This is one situation in which a wee squirt of lighter fluid just won’t cut the mustard.

Here’s the rub, though. They’re on their way sunward when they pick up a distress signal from another ship charged with a similar mission, but presumed lost some seven years ago. Having never seen Alien, they decide that the best thing to do would be to pop on over in order to offer assistance. Sadly, their diversion means that they are now at a slightly different angle to the sun, and having forgotten to adjust their protective parasol accordingly, things start to get inhospitably warm. Fires start, things blow up.

They reach the other ship eventually, where they meet Captain Pinbacker, the lone survivor. Pinbacker is an object lesson in the perils of neglecting the SPF30, and a nutter to boot. Imagine a nude Freddy Krueger and you’re halfway there. He’s become a bit pro-extinction during his seven-year solitude, and doesn’t entirely agree that the sun should be reignited. He attempts to persuade our heroes to adopt his point of view, by killing them.

I thought this was a cracking film, if a bit barmy (especially towards the end). Lots of good moral conundrums too. When the crew realise that they have insufficient oxygen supplies to reach the sun, should they kill one of their number? The survival of the human race rather depends on the success of the mission, but what if no one volunteers to be martyred for the cause? Should they kill the chap who made the gaffe with the parasol? The predicament is sort of his fault, and he’s a bit suicidal anyway. 

(A very similar issue was raised in an interesting podcast I enjoyed on the way home. During an exchange at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, Richard Dawkins, in debate with Alister McGrath, was wondering (out loud) whether there might be some circumstances in which we might advocate torture. What if an atomic bomb had been set to detonate in one of the world’s major cities, and only the would-be bomber knew where it was? Would we be justified in reaching for the thumbscrews?)

Back to Sunshine. I found myself wondering: if this situation with the sun ever arises (which, we’re told, it eventually will) will people try to do anything about it, or just accept their fate? Would people want to see the continuation of their species above all else? Let’s face it: getting a suitably large bomb organised must be a bit of a palaver.

I accidently found myself on the Wikipedia entry for this film, which had an interesting breakdown of the certifications assigned in different countries. I was particularly taken with Finland, where it got a K13 rating (whatever that is.) This rating was assigned on the basis of the ‘science-fiction setting, peril, zombies and misfortune’. Now there’s a collection of factors liable to warp the purest of innocent minds.

Although, truth be told, I don’t actually remember any zombies…

Explore posts in the same categories: Films, Philosophy

7 Comments on “Sunshine in Leith”

  1. Hannah Says:

    That parenthesied ‘yes, I know’ wouldn’t be a derogatory dig at the sci-fi genre, would it Doug? Because I’m sure we’ve been over that before, somewhere else.

    I think everyone would moan about how the government was doing nothing and how useless everyone else was; everybody would have a million and one loudly expressed ideas about what should be done, and nobody would actually do anything. We will die bemoaning our fate and the unfairness of life, but refusing to get off our backsides to try and change things.

  2. J Says:

    It’s odd; for a film that seems to be a brazen amalgam of 2001, Alien, Event Horizon, Silent Running and Mission to Mars, I enjoyed it a lot and I felt like I was seeing a film for grown ups.


  3. Doug Says:

    Hannah – the ‘yes, I know’ was aimed entirely at you, so I’m glad you rose to the bait. I actually meant it as ‘yes, I know, my willing consumption of a sci-fi might be taken as a contradiction of views stated elsewhere’, but somehow I felt that this didn’t quite flow off the page in such a pleasant way. As for your prediction, I’m afraid that my suspicions are of a similar scenario. Still, extinction was good enough for the dinosaurs, so maybe it’s good enough for us.

    J – you forgot Solaris! As Empire pointed out, there’s only so many ways in which the old ‘scientists go mad in space’ chestnut can be reworked.

    As I was watching Sunshine, I made a mental note to watch Event Horizon again. As I recall, it was fairly pedestrian right up until the end, where it suddenly became shockingly unpleasant completely out of nowhere. Might be worth a second look…

  4. J Says:

    I’ve not seen the original version of Solaris, but was present in the same room as a presentation of the remake (I use these terms deliberately as I found myself passing the running time with other activities as the film free-fell into art-house pretension)

    As for Event Horizon – it’s a solid film and one of Paul WS Anderson’s better offerings. While things get a bit “Hellraiser” at the end, the cinema cut wasn’t as gory as it was originally shot. You can get a flavour of the body horror by putting the player into frame-by-frame mode during the scenes where Lawrence Fishburne’s character is given visions of the fate of the Event Horizon crew…


  5. Doug Says:

    Ah, L’horreur de corps in freeze-frame. That sounds like an appetising way to spend one’s time. I shall get onto it. 🙂

    I agree that Solaris (remake) was both arthouse and pretentious, but it was sufficiently engaging that I didn’t need to resort to other activities during my viewing. Except slurping a mug of tea, naturellement.

  6. Hannah Says:

    Isn’t Event Horizon the one where the lovely Jason Isaacs ends up suspended in mid-air dripping blood and guts all over everything? As I recall, I enjoyed it right up until that point. I spent the rest of the film hiding behind a cushion.

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