The Midnight Sky
Depressing and bleak, George Clooney's The Midnight Sky is a performance-driven sci-fi think piece that spends too much time inside of its own head. Clooney's direction is sound, which when paired with a handful of solid performances, makes this a surprising misfire as the script struggles to conjure up anything remotely interesting, including a dud ending that's beyond predictable.
George Clooney steps behind the lens again as a director for The Midnight Sky, a Lily Brooks-Dalton novel adapted for the big screen by Mark L. Smith for Netflix. What’s most surprising about The Midnight Sky is its lack of content, which ruins the overall experience when paired with Clooney’s sound direction and a handful of talented stars turning in good, hearty performances. The Midnight Sky fails to amount to anything as it slogs along to its predictable and all too familiar ending that leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of viewers hoping for something that hasn’t been done before.
Augustine (George Clooney) is the sole survivor at a research base in the arctic circle. The rest of the crew has abandoned the station after hearing of a mysterious apocalyptic event that has struck the world. Now, Augustine is the only one left, attempting to stay relevant in hopes of directing any returning space ships out of harm’s way, which is now known as planet Earth.
Not much is initially revealed about the end-of-the-world situation that has struck the planet or of Augustine’s reasoning to stay behind, aside from the fact that he is suffering from some sort of sickness and apparently doesn’t consider it important to return home or escape his eventual death.
The Midnight Sky is a rather bleak and depressing journey that follows Augustine as he discovers that he isn’t the lone survivor when he stumbles upon a little girl trying to cook something in the kitchen. Now, the two must reach a satellite tower that is out in the blistering cold in hopes of making contact with a space crew returning from their journey of discovering a new livable planet.
This crew includes Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir and Tiffany Boone. This stacked cast of astronauts accounts for over half of the success of this film, despite only cutting to them for sizable bits, before returning back to Clooney and the girl back on Earth as they share mostly quiet conversations, which consist of winks, nods, nudges and smiles.
Those seeking a slow and steady sci-fi film that’s all about mediation and sulking in the past might find comfort in The Midnight Sky. Although, I must warn you that the film never adds up to anything of extreme value.
I say extreme value because there is little value to be found within this film. For starters, Clooney is no slouch when it comes to pointing a camera and shooting. He captures the isolation and loneliness without hesitation and that alone makes for an experience in the sense that this film is a sad one that hovers on regret and past mistakes.
Clooney also wisely casts the actors and actresses that I have already named up above, which means that all of the space stuff is at the very least, well-acted and given the proper commitment from every single person acting in front of the camera.
Even Clooney goes unhinged with the shaved head and bushy beard, showing that hopeless desperation through his eyes and a general lack of wanting to live.
But again, nothing about the script is all that interesting or captivating. Nothing here hasn’t already been done (and done much better mind you), including the predictable and lazy ending, which some might call a twist, but I simply call it paying attention to the basic fundamentals of storytelling that is being unraveled (slowly) throughout the film.
This leaves those that saw it coming somewhat shocked by how glaringly obvious and pedestrian everything starts to feel as Clooney wraps things up not with a nice bow, but with little importance or movement that feels artificial and unearned.
I was cruising along with The Midnight Sky, accepting it as a very basic deconstruction of guilt and remorse, until the film’s final minutes, in which I immediately checked out and wrote it off as something that is dare I say, below the talent of Clooney, his writer and the cast that he has assembled.
I wanted to love The Midnight Sky and hold it up high next to another classic Clooney space movie about being lost in love, the past and a relationship so strong, yet so unexplored, in which I am talking about Steven Soderbergh‘s Solaris. But The Midnight Sky is nowhere near the level of Solaris and will quickly be forgotten as Netflix shuffles 15 more straight-to-video Christmas movies to the front of the queue after not even bothering to show you the credits to Clooney’s latest.