Sunshine is the movie to watch on the day of the eclipse

It is the noble task of science educators to bring the distant cosmos to Earth, where it can ignite human fascination in more than an abstract way. But the total solar eclipse that will cast its shadow over thousands of miles of North America on Monday doesn’t need any help. On the path of totality, temperatures will drop and wildlife may become confused, and that may happen dark enough to see other planetsin a kind of 360 degree sunset.

That’s why there’s no better time to watch Sunshinethe cerebral science fiction thriller written by Alex Garland (Ex Machina) and directed by Danny Boyle (28 days later). Whether you’re on the path of totality or not, you can bring the vast awe and crushing terror of the cosmos into your living room with a film that pushes aside the actual realities of space exploration to get the visceral realities just right.

Plot-wise, Sunshine can be described in several ways, as if it were a silent action film (the sun dies and a team of experts must save the world by driving a nuclear bomb into it), a psychological art film (long-distance astronauts are slowly driven to varying degrees of madness by the sheer scale of the idea of ​​approaching the sun), and a white-knuckle horror movie (there’s one more person on this spaceship than there should be), all delivered with relative accuracy.

Cast-wise, Sunshine serves as a very specific snapshot of Hollywood in 2007, before a shocking number of actors – Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh and Benedict Wong – had become blockbuster names. Protostarsif you want.

Garland and Boyle assembled that international cast to reflect a half-century of growth in Asia’s space programs, tasked them with living together as their characters would, took them on a journey to explore the cramped quarters of a nuclear submarine and for a ride in NASA’s “vomit comet” to experience weightlessness, and suggested reading about the experiences and psychology of astronauts. They hired scientific advisors and futurists to advise, and even a professor to lecture the cast on solar physics.

But make no mistake Sunshine for The good stuff or Apollo 13. This is not your typical scientifically committed space exploration film, and its elements unrealism are everywhere. For starters, the sun won’t die in the next fifty years, and even if it did, there aren’t enough nuclear resources on the entire Earth to ignite it again with a bomb. The film’s ship, the Icarus II, has artificial gravity and makes sounds as it moves through space toward its fiery endpoint. And yet…

Image: Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection

Sunshine is beloved by many true science fiction fans – including some true advocates of scientific accuracy that I know – for its commitment to the emotional reliability of real space exploration. Even some contemporary reviewers who decried it for its inaccuracies admitted: In the psychology of space exploration, Sunshine appears. Boyle shoots the film with a frankly stressful commitment to claustrophobia, and while Garland’s script somewhat begrudgingly makes room for summer blockbuster-style romance and action, Oomf The point is that characters simply struggle with the space itself.

The film repeatedly feints toward the supernatural, but never fully crosses the event horizon into scientific fantasy, nor does it need to. The vast, lonely reaches of space and the sun’s gravitational source make that line vague enough on its own. Woven throughout the crew’s hardships is an inescapable sense of profundity that is only heightened by their mortal reality: living day after day with only a handful of metal, and no miles of gravity-trapped atmosphere, separating them from the raw cosmos.

Their struggle is as real as the laws of physics, and profound and ineffable as any religious experience, and you can say the same about a solar eclipse. When the sky becomes dark, the birds become silent, the wind dies down, the air becomes cold, the sun becomes black and the people who look at it Are beaten blindwhat else can you call it than biblical?

Sunshine may leave you with more questions than answers, but that’s part of the eclipse experience. This week the moon and sun will bring the cosmos to Earth for us in one of the most intuitive ways possible – just as Boyle and Garland showed that emotional accuracy sometimes extends beyond the technical nature.