everything is seen by it
It's been a bit busy around here, and that has put a cramp in my writing. The past four weeks have been one big catch-up for me, it feels. Let me tell you, two days of migraine yucko can really cause the grading to pile up. And after that, it just felt like I never could get a handle on things. Finally, though, last week I managed it. It feels good. haha And just in time, too, as my sister and brother-in-law acquired the perfect house, and there's all sorts of moving/painting/unpacking action going on. Nevertheless, I felt I should not let my blogging slide completely here, so I'm updating with a short film review. So here goes.
Last week I finally had the chance to watch a film I'd been wanting to watch for a very long time. A few years ago, I stood in the lobby of the theatre and watched the preview for Sunshine. I was fascinated for two reasons: Cillian Murphy, and the idea of a dramatic conflict in the isolation of space. I suppose I should offer a disclaimer here: I'm one of those people who think that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a beautiful and strangely fascinating movie despite and even because of it's fractured and broadly strung storyline. The previews for Sunshine tantalized me with images suggesting the same ethereal beauty permeating 2001. And, for me, the film delivered.
Sunshine is the story of an 8-man crew sent to restart the dying sun using a nuclear payload referred to as a star-bomb. It's the second such mission, the first having been lost without word seven years previously. The mysterious nature of this disappearance plagues the captain of the Icarus II. In the first segment of the movie, the pace is slow, introducing the characters mid-stream. This hooked me immediately. There is almost no backstory in this film. It is never explained in the film why the sun has begun to die, and die fairly quickly. There is little to tell us about how and why this group of scientists gathered for this mission. When you meet them, they are about to enter the region where solar flares will prohibit all communication with Earth until the return trip, well into their journey to the sun already. It makes for an interesting meeting. You enter their world after they've become comfortable with each other, with the journey, with being in space...right around the time when tensions are established, aggravated by the confines and the time in close quarters. This film is about the story, the goal of the astronauts, but it is deeply about these people.
There are many difficulties inherent to working with such a narrowly limited setting: your story must be compelling, you have limited means to introduce or manage conflict, you risk the entire thing seeming contrived and melodramatic. Sunshine essentially avoids the difficulties while harnessing the strengths: the increased awareness of detail, the heightened importance of individual decisions and actions, the deepened connection with the fates of the characters. In fact, there was only one point at which I felt my credibility slightly strained. The nature of the character involved and my intense connection with what was happening over-rode my sense of incredulity, however. The strain was a direct result of a character not connecting the dots he should have given the narrowly limited setting. That said, the conclusion the dots were leading to was one anyone would choose to avoid making until it was obvious there was nothing left to conclude. It is a forgivable stretch.
The only other weak point I found with the film was it’s nearness to the present day. The film asks us to believe in some quite advanced technological advances within the next 50 years. Well, 46 years now. Certainly they are possible advances, but, again, it does stretch believability a bit, especially with the first mission having occurred seven years previously. I found myself wondering about the probability of such a ship being built in less than 50 years. I wondered whether we would have the capability to create the payload intended to restart the dying sun. Perhaps someone more versed in the current state of those sciences today would have a better idea of their probably states in 50 years, but as a layman, I found myself feeling it was too much of a stretch to ask me to believe we will have advanced so far by 2057. At any rate, it wasn’t a thing that ruined the film for me in any way. I did wonder why a date farther off wasn’t chosen, but then the movie itself captured me.
The film does begin a bit slowly, but as the ship nears the sun, the plot advances in several well-timed moves, each one forcing the audience to invest a slight bit more in what’s happening. The plot progression and character response were, I felt, very natural. Each action felt innate to the character completing it. In all, I found myself rooting for the characters, for their goal, cheering on their well-being--not merely because the end-goal of this group of astronauts was saving humanity, but because I wanted these men and women to be successful. I wanted them to win for their own sake. This movie is a well-crafted piece of science fiction that reaches beyond the tropes of the genre into some very thought-provoking character interaction. I enjoyed every minute of it and most heartily recommend it to my readers.