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Throughout the movie Sunshine we are shown that each crew member has a job that shows his/her importance to the mission.

From what I can gather, Capa seems to be of the highest priority, even more so than the captain as he is the one that needs to set the bomb off on its correct trajectory. We are shown this in this scene:

Mace: Were screwed... one of us isn't anyway.

Harvey: What happened?

Mace: The airlock's destroyed. There's only one suit. Capa's taking it.

Harvey: ...Why Capa?

Mace: Because the rest of us are lower priority.

Harvey: I'm Not A Low Priority.

Mace: You're a comms officer on a ship that has no means of communication.

Harvey: I am the captain!, The mission needs a captain to hold it together.

The scene ends with Capa getting the suit.

Then this is the back and forth in an earlier scene:

Kaneda: It's a two person job, fixing the shield. Harvey you're second in command, you're not coming.

Trey: I volunteer.

Mace: No! I volunteer...

Kaneda: Alright.

Mace: I volunteer Capa.

Capa: [after long pause] ... alright...

So why in this scene was Capa allowed to go on a potentially dangerous mission to fix the shield, I mean any type of space has risks and if Capa was the highest priority, I just don't understand why this, No. 1 , suggested by Mace and No. 2, allowed by the captain? Because, he specifically says Harvey can not go, but in the later scene Capa was clearly stated to be more important, even taking into account the communications had been taken out and were not working, b/c Capa was the only one who could release the bomb.

Why was Capa allowed to take this task?

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  • I felt my answer to this one was nicely reasoned. Is there anything else you'd like me to address before considering an acceptance?
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 20:34

2 Answers 2

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It seems like it's a question of measured risk. Capa may be the only person who truly understands the bomb but he's certainly not the only person who can fire it. As the simulation makes clear (better expressed in an earlier version of the script), the actual procedure for dropping it is pre-programmed.

Losing him at this stage of the mission would be unfortunate, but not at all disabling for their success.

ICARUS: Owing to current oxygen reserves, the crew will not survive to the scheduled delivery point. This does not prevent completion of the mission. In the event of the death of the crew, I am programmed to fly the payload into the sun.

It's only with the need to switch the payloads (necessitating mucking around with the bomb/s) that Capa suddenly becomes invaluable, and certainly more valuable than a Medic whose duties are duplicated and a Comms Officer with no comms to operate.

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  • One key problem: at this point in the story, the crew has already decided to visit Icarus I to examine its payload. (The shield was damaged as a consequence of changing course.) So Capa’s importance to the mission had already increased. It doesn’t make sense that Mace would suggest that Capa go, or that Kaneda would even allow it. Mostly it seems a clumsy way of sending Capa on a spacewalk (which he’s apparently never done, and of course this skill becomes essential later in the story). Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 21:07
  • @MatthewButterick you have to remember that this is in the context of a space mission where course changes are calculated by a single individual apparently by hand and are not checked by anyone else. It doesn't seem like it is supposed to make sense.
    – Jontia
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 10:46
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Why Capa was suggested by Mace...

Clearly, because Mace is still annoyed with Capa over he (Mace) not being able to send a last message to Earth because of Capa taking so long with his message. Yes, that kind of behaviour is highly unprofessional but still believable in humans.

Why was this allowed by the captain...

Now that's unbelievable and on top of it unnecessary for the plot, in my opinion. Let's look at a few things from the movie's universe:

  1. The captain is shown to be a professional, cool-headed, reasonable man. The movie gives us no reason to believe otherwise (Except of course in this 'shield-repair' incidence)
  2. Mace's job description as the ship's engineer and his skills in handling repairs (as shown later in the movie when he's trying to reactivate the mainframe) clearly make him more suited for shield repairs
  3. It was the captain who died in this action whereas Capa went and returned safely. It wouldn't have made any difference to the plot if the other person was Mace as in that case too, captain would have similarly risked his life to finish the final repairs and asked Mace to leave and return to the ship.

So, in view of the above things, I think it was unreasonable and unnecessary for letting the captain agree to Mace volunteering Capa for the shield repair.

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