Four Minutes: Capa's Transformation Trace Wells

When I was 18, I watched a movie that resonated with me, that made me take a look at myself and see what I could be. The 2007 Danny Boyle movie Sunshine has a premise many of us are familiar with: the sun is dying, and to save all humanity from freezing to death in a solar winter, a small team of scientists take it upon themselves to build a bomb the size of Manhattan Island and launch it into the sun in hopes of reigniting it. We've seen similar setups before. The Core (2003) shows heroes digging into the center of the earth to try to keep the Earth spinning. Armageddon (1998) had Bruce Willis stopping an asteroid from hitting the planet and wiping out all life. Deep Impact (also 1998) had -- what else? -- Robert Duvall stopping a comet from hitting the planet and wiping out all life. What sets Sunshine apart for me is the fact that instead of a high-octane action movie led by a wise-cracking grizzled old man, it's more quiet and introspective, deciding instead to observe the characters as a reflection of ourselves.

The one who developed the bomb, as well as the plan to send the team to the sun to launch this massive explosive into the heart of the dying star, is a soft-spoken man named Robert Capa. Capa is not the captain, confidently leading the crew and barking orders; he's the quiet man in the corner of the room, wrestling with recurring nightmares of falling into the very sun that he's planning to revitalize, secretly hoping nobody asks him to make a decision. When the lot invariably falls to Capa to decide the course of the entire journey, including the fate of the rest of the crew, he chokes and chooses the wrong option. Being the reluctant "hero" that Capa is, he declines to even take responsibility for the deaths that result, continuing to remain on the sidelines.

Capa isn't too thrilled when all eyes are on him to decide the fate of the expedition.
Capa's nightmare: falling into the sun itself.

One by one, the entire crew is picked off as the movie progresses, soon leaving only Capa alive, with literally minutes before the entire mission is failed and humanity's last chance for survival disappears forever. The ship's computer is damaged, with automatic functions completely disabled. Capa is left with four minutes to manually disconnect the bomb from the main portion of the ship, reach the airlock, and jump through space from the ship to the bomb, where he has to trigger the detonation sequence himself. This is the moment Capa finally takes responsibility for the success of his mission, ensuring the deaths of his fellow crew members were not meaningless. He starts the timer, turns to reach the door, and immediately trips on the door frame. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but there's no air in the ship, and Capa's in a giant, clunky space suit. The audience can see Capa's frustration. He screams and slams his head into the floor, outraged at himself. It takes him over 2.5 minutes to stand up. He eventually hobbles to the exit, and sees this large, growing gap between the ship and the bomb as they drift further and further apart, with the sun clearly visible behind the scene. He uses the jets in the suit to boost himself across the gap, fighting the memory of his recurring nightmare the entire trip. Finally, he makes it to the other side completely out of breath, clearly feeling like he's just finished a marathon.

Capa's jump from the ship to the bomb.

Of course, there's still roughly ten minutes left in the movie after this scene, in which Capa triggers the bomb and is able to witness his own success in his final moments, but I believe these four minutes are where Capa makes his pivotal transformation from the reluctant leader to the savior of the planet. In Capa, I see myself -- the quiet, awkward kid who just wanted to sit in the corner and pray nobody calls on to make a decision. We probably won't be astronauts tasked with reigniting the sun, but surely it shouldn't take a life-or-death situation for us to come out of our own corners and comfort zones, to fight our own nightmares, to take our own leaps toward changing the lives of others, and ourselves, for the better.

Created By
Trace Wells
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