Pinbacker before his disfigurement.

At the end of time, a moment will come when just one man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here... but stardust.
~ Pinbacker

Pinbacker is the main antagonist of the 2007 science fiction film Sunshine.

He was portrayed by Mark Strong, who also played Frank D'Amico in Kick-Ass, and Lord Henry Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes.

Creation and Characteristics

Pinbacker was inspired by the character of Sergeant Pinback from the movie Dark Star. The character's disfiguring burns were influenced by the injuries suffered by F1 driver Niki Lauda. Boyle described the character of Pinbacker as a representation of fundamentalism, as the film has a theme of science vs. religion. Prior to and during much of the mission, it appeared that Pinbacker was likely a secular and rational scientist, but the pressure and stress of the mission likely got to him and he lost his sanity, becoming a religious fanatic. Aside from being a religious fanatic, Pinbacker also appears to be a sociopath, as well as both a homicidal and omnicidal maniac. Whenever the burned Pinbacker is on screen, the image is distorted and there are many thumping and screeching noises. Boyle did this to create an aura of pure insanity around Pinbacker, to give viewers a sense of the madness within. It makes him a ghostly figure that you never really get a good look at. Also, since the crew is growing unstable and frustrated with many different problems with the mission, the film makes the viewers think that a character like Trey or Searle could sabotage the mission like Pinbacker did, however, Pinbacker returning came as a twist that most did not see coming. The moment where Icarus II's computer informs Capa that there are in fact 5 crew members is often thought of as one of the greatest Wham! moments in cinema.


Around the year 2040, the sun begins to die, apparently the result of a Q-ball that has been trapped inside the star and causing it to rot from within and cool off, freezing Earth in a solar winter. Panicked scientists frantically create a large spaceship called the "Icarus I" and construct a nuclear fission stellar bomb with the mass of Manhattan island. Seven international astronauts are selected to go on the mission and destroy the Q-ball to create a new star and cause the sun to reignite. Several years later when the Icarus I has reached the point of no return near the sun, Pinbacker suffered a psychotic break and became fanatically religious, believing that it was God's will that humanity die. He proceeded to abandon the mission and lock the crew into the solarium and expose them to unshielded rays of sunlight, burning them alive. For the next seven years he lived in the Icarus I in orbit around the sun and lived off the food supply for the group, apparently waiting for judgment day. By the time 2057 rolls around, a second mission, the Icarus II, has been created. The second bomb is humanity's last resort to save itself because they have exhausted all their nuclear resources to build it. Because the Icarus I abandoned its mission after it was out of radio contact with Earth, humanity only knows that Icarus I was lost for reasons unknown. After themselves leaving the range of Earth communications, Icarus II Communications Officer Harvey discovers the distress beacon of Icarus I while passing Mercury. As the stellar bomb's operation is purely theoretical, physicist Capa recommends to Captain Kaneda they change course; since both bombs depleted all of mankind's fissile resources, a rendezvous with Icarus I would allow two attempts. The crew is left with an impossible dilemma. Do they detour from their mission to find out what happened and pick up the original bomb or do they ignore the original ship and focus on the mission? When they change course for Icarus I, navigator Trey forgets to change the solar shields and this results in the death of Captain Kaneda and the oxygen garden. Trey blames himself and psychiatrist Searle assesses him as a suicide risk and sedates him. Icarus II reaches Icarus I, and Capa, Searle, Harvey, and Mace board the stricken vessel, leaving co-pilot Cassie and botanist Corazon on board "Icarus II". While Icarus I has a functional oxygen garden and payload bomb, the ship's computer has been sabotaged, rendering piloting the ship and delivery of the second payload impossible. Mace finds a video left by Captain Pinbacker who confesses to abandoning the mission. The crew of Icarus I is found dead in the solar observation room so burned that they are now mostly dust, like the victims of Pompeii. Suddenly, the Icarus I forcibly decouples, destroying the outer airlock and stranding the four crew members on the derelict spacecraft. A few are able to make it back to Icarus II alive and Capa, Mace, Trey, Cassie, and Corazon remain alive on board Icarus II. Corazon calculates that, due to the fire in the oxygen garden, the ship lacks the oxygen for five crew members to reach the sun, and the crew discusses killing Trey. With the vote ending up three against one (Cassie), they agree to kill Trey and find scalpels missing, causing the crew to worry that Trey will go the route of Pinbacker. However, the crew finds that Trey has already committed suicide. (although some have suggested that Pinbacker actually killed him) During a final inspection, the Icarus II computer then informs Capa that they still lack the oxygen reserves, as a fifth person is on board. A shocked Capa ascertains that Pinbacker, now heavily burned from sun exposure and fully naked, snuck aboard and decoupled the airlocks. Pinbacker sabotages the spacecraft by removing the mainframe from its coolant bath, shutting down the computer and power systems, which prevents them from delivering the payload. He maims Capa, traps him in the airlock, and kills Corazon with one of the scalpels he stole earlier. Cassie escapes, and Pinbacker chases her into the payload ship, while Mace attempts to undo Pinbacker's sabotage to the mainframe. Manually reactivating the mainframe, Mace is trapped in a coolant reservoir when a mainframe catches his leg and he freezes to death. Capa breaches the airlock's outer door, thereby opening the inner door by decompressing the ship. Manually decoupling the bomb, Capa jumps onto the payload ship, its boosters knocking Icarus II off course and causing the Icarus II to explode and disintegrate. Capa enters the payload and finds Cassie, only to be attacked by Pinbacker. However as the payload turns, Cassie rips the burned skin off Pinbacker's forearm, allowing the two to escape. As she is dying, Cassie whispers to Capa, "finish it" and Capa goes to trigger the bomb. The bomb successfully detonates, killing all three. On Earth, Capa's sister reviews her brother's last message on the frozen Sydney Harbor and watches the Sun noticeably brighten, implying the mission's success.


  • "Not your God. Mine!"
  • "I am Pinbacker, Commander of the Icarus One. We have abandoned our mission. Our star is dying. All our science. All our hopes, our... our dreams, are foolish! In the face of this, we are dust, nothing more. Unto this dust, we return. When he chooses for us to die, it is not our place to challenge God."
  • "Are you an angel? Has the time come? I've been waiting so long."
  • " The last man, alone with God. Am I that man?"
  • "For seven years I spoke with God! He told me to take us all to Heaven."
  • (from trailer) "Nothing will survive… not your parents… not your children… not even… stars!"
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