THE MIDNIGHT SKY (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine (George Clooney), a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully (Felicity Jones) and her fellow astronauts from returning home to Earth, where a mysterious global catastrophe has taken place.
Those expecting a straight-up space epic or apocalyptic action thriller will be sorely disappointed. This is George Clooney we are talking about, the director (not the actor) who is responsible for thinking man movies liked Good Night, Good Luck and The Ides of March. Clooney whose last on-screen appearance (not counting his Nespresso adverts) was the 2016 Money Monster starred and directs this movie adaptation of the book “Good Morning, Midnight” by Lily Brooks-Dalton.
Looking more like a grizzly bear, Clooney plays Augustine Lofthouse, a terminally-ill scientist who chooses to stay put in his base in the Artic after the rest of the crew members decide to evacuate due to an unexplained event which caused the Earth to be inhabitable. Hoping to warn any space mission not to return to earth, Augustine manages to detect an active space craft, Aether but the current signal is too weak to reach out to the space craft. At the same time, Augustine realised a young girl named Iris is left abandoned in the base.
With no one left to take care of Iris, Augustine decides to bring her along on a perilous journey in search of another satellite base equipped with better signal to contact Aether. Aether which is led by Commander Adewole (David Oyelowo) and partner, Sully (Felicity Jones) is also facing problems of their own. With their crew members losing hope of getting in contact with NASA and their family members, the space craft is in perpetual danger of orbiting to nowhere.
Here’s when things start to get tricky. Either you are going to switch to another flick on the streamer because the pacing is too slow for your liking or continue to stick with Augustine to see if Iris and him is going to make it alive to their final destination. The Midnight Sky is slow, brooding for the most of the running time except for two marginally exciting scenes, one involving the sudden melting of the ice bed and a meteor shower. It’s a cross between last year’s Ad Astra and the Clooney-starring Solaris, both science-fiction titles that lacked the grandiose of typical sci-fi adventures. Essentially, it’s a drama that deals with lost human connections than anything else.
In short, it’s a heartfelt drama that talks about humanity not about the end of the world or the discovery of whatever habitable planets there are out there. Despite the more than generous budget from Netflix which explains the gorgeous visuals and on location shooting in Iceland, the latest directorial outing from Clooney is at heart a small scale, intimate drama. He is very much a creative focusing more on storytelling than coming up with empty spectacle.
Besides Clooney who puts in a rather good performance, the rest of the cast members are filled up by capable performers liked Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Mexican actor Demian Bichir, Tiffany Boone and Kyle Chandler. The Midnight Sky is no Gravity for sure. It’s an enjoyable movie if you watch it with the right kind of mindset, preferably of no knowledge about the twist in the last act as well. It’s also not a flick that has a satisfying payoff which of course pulled down the overall score. Clooney’s seventh full-length directorial effort might not be on top of the list but certainly not among his worst.
Review by Linus Tee