Sunshine

January 20, 2010

Wikipedia | Sunshine is a 2007 British science fiction film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland about the crew of a spacecraft on a dangerous mission to the Sun. In 2057, with the Earth in peril from the dying Sun, the crew is sent to reignite the Sun with a massive stellar bomb, a nuclear device with the equivalent mass of Manhattan Island.  

The script was based on a scientific back-story that took the characters on a psychological journey. The director cast a group of international actors for the film, and had the actors live together and learn about topics related to their roles, as a form of method acting. To have the actors realistically react to visual effects that would be implemented in post-production, the filmmakers constructed live sets to serve as cues.  

Filmmakers consulted NASA to design the scientific aspects of the film. Technical requirements for the ship were provided in order to be feasible. An oxygen garden was also recommended to provide oxygen for the ship and to enable a ship’s crew to grow their own food rather than rely on pre-packaged food. Boyle met with a department within NASA that was focused on the psychology of deep-space travel, and the department advised the director that Earth routines like preparing one’s own food, eating it, and cleaning up after were activities crucial to an astronaut’s sanity.  

copyright © Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007

The gold-leaf reflective shield in Sunshine was influenced by NASA’s satellites that are sent out to deflect heat and radiation. Director Danny Boyle chose to design the space suits to be gold along these lines, despite encouragement to model the suits after the NASA design. The helmets of the film’s suits were designed to have cameras mounted in them, which created a sense of claustrophobia useful for the actors in their performances. The helmets were also limited to a slit for visibility instead of a full-face visor as further consideration to protect the characters from radiation in space. According to Boyle, the funnel shape of the helmet was influenced by the character Kenny from South Park.  

Boyle included “Icarus” in the name of the film’s ship to continue a theme of bleakness, saying that no Americans would give their ship such an ill-fated name. According to the director, “They’d 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.”  The ship’s exterior was designed to look like an oil tanker. The ship’s interior was influenced by the design of a nuclear submarine that filmmakers had visited in Scotland, though the space was larger due to NASA’s advice that smaller quarters would affect astronauts’ sanity. 

copyright © Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007

Previous science fiction films that Boyle cited as influences included Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky’s Solaris from 1972.

Link: official movie website