Guy Cry Cinema

Why Sci-Fi Thriller Sunshine Makes Guys Cry

Guy Cry: Sunshine: header

Why didn’t they just go ahead and call it Sobshine?

This film, much like Europa Report and Moon in recent memory, is a low-budget realistic portrayal of space travel in our near future, with depressing death mixed in for…you know, flavor. Of course the budget was $40 million, but when you see how gorgeous this film is, along with the star power they got (Captain America and Scarecrow), the price tag seems more impressive. I re-watched this film recently and it holds up in most categories, save for one that we’ll go into later.

The criteria for “manly movie” are definitely met on this one. You’ve got space ships, saving the world, explosions both planned and un-planned, and murder most foul. Not a film exclusively for males, but not a gushy emotion-as-plot movie by any stretch. Yet I posit that the internal conflict, self-sacrifice and raw emotion in this can leave even the most grizzled, tattooed biker dude sobbing behind his Ray-Bans.

Basic rundown of the plot is that the Sun is dying. You see, much like American corporations, the Sun is a person and can “die.” Ignoring the reality that ol’ Sol has about five billion more years of giving us sunburn before it even enters its red giant phase (also known as a star’s mid-life crisis), Earth decides the best course of action is to nuke it. Hey, it worked in The Core, didn’t it? So the USS “Big-Ass Mirror with the ISS Hiding Behind It” is shot towards the Sun and immediately disappears. Perhaps they shouldn’t have named it Icarus, the Greek myth involving a guy flying too close to the sun and melting his wings off. That’s like naming a spaceship “Titanic” and launching it at an icy comet. What could go wro-OMG IT ALL WENT WRONG!

When I say “IT ALL WENT WRONG” I mean — spoilers up in your face — every character in this movie dies. That’s not necessarily why this movie makes us cry, but some of the deaths…well…so much feels. This movie is basically a series of emotional deaths strung together with a plot. It’s strange and moving that in a film with such bombastic expectations of space killing people, nukes being flown into the Sun, and so forth, the deaths are way more emotionally powerful because of how small and personal they feel.

The movie follows the crew of the second poorly-named ship as they attempt to nuke-slap the Sun. First off, the only reason they haven’t burst into flames (yet) is a big-ol mirror at the front of the ship. But when the crew of the USS “Doomed from the Start” sees their predecessors hanging out getting a tan, they decide to investigate. Why not? They had nothing else to do. Ship changes direction, mirror not aligned…first death. So Mysterious Asian Captain gives his life fixing the mirror while the ship’s psychologist yells at him about groceries or something. Seriously that guy was worse than Counselor Troi in the first season of TNG.

chris evans in sunshine

So Titanic 2 docks with Titanic 1 and we find out the hidden message of this film: Religion is the enemy. Hey, I didn’t write the movie. NASA crewed the first ship with Glenn Beck, and Captain “I found God in my sunburn and he says we should die” wrecked the first mission. Somehow Glenn’s still alive and Freddy Kruger-ed up with religious sunburns. A sabotaged airlock means Ensign Expendable, discount Troi, Captain America and Red Eye have to jump through space, but there’s only one suit.

In a plot twist no one saw coming, crazy PhD offers to stay behind to operate the door, dooming himself to death number two by an unfiltered sunlight BBQ. Pretty sure he climaxed during it, that dude was nuts. So with Cillian “Cheekbones” Murphy in the only suit, Captain America makes the jump with minor frostbite and Ensign Expendable misses the door, freezes and then explodes in a fire ball. Don’t worry: no one liked him.

Then the movie takes the wrong turn from quality and becomes “Jason Voorhees in space,” though still better than when actual Jason Voorhees went to space. One guy kills himself because he made a math error (Tiger moms, am I right?), one lady gets stabbed because she loved plants, and one girl just kinda sits there. I’m not even sure if she was hurt. But my personal winner for “Things just got downright emotional on this ship,” is Chris Evans. That dude can act, and he did. Recall Captain Torch has a touch of frostbite from jumping in space without a suit. So when he comes into the botched computer room and realizes he’s going to have to swim in the coolant to fix it, he’s all like “Damn, do I get frozen in every movie I’m in?” Each submersion into the coolant (there were three total) leaves him more frozen, and it was all conveyed through superb acting, none of this plastic ice that Schwarzenegger used as Mr. Freeze. His death was slow, longest of anyone in the movie, yet he kept going. Just when it seemed like he was going to make it, his leg was a jerk and got caught/crushed by one of the towers, preventing both his exit from the coolant and the computer from fully being restored.

A small, quivering, almost imperceptible “Oh God” slips from his lips as he realizes that he’s dying. It was such a soft, horrifying moment that it almost deserved a better movie to be in. Freezing to death while being closer to the Sun than any other human before him, and his foot being crushed just to screw with him, Torch America slipped away. Of course, he mentions God and then dies, because religion is the enemy. I DID NOT WRITE THE MOVIE!

(Kyle’s Edit: Everyone! Dan forgot to recommend a movie in the next paragraph. A movie starring Chris Evans. A movie that Americans all have to watch on VOD because the Weinstein Company are a bunch of silly-nannies. Snowpiercer, you guys. Snowpiercer.)

There’s more movie after that, but the stupid decision to never focus the camera when Glenn Beck came on screen poisoned it a little. They do set off the plot-fixing bomb and the Sun turns on again, but emotionally we never really leave that computer room. Chris Evans, frozen in Captain America, frozen in Snowpiercer, frozen in Sunshine. Dude loves him some frozen. OH! He should have been in Frozen!

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Dan also works on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

About the author

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.