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Review: The Midnight Sky (2020)

The Midnight Sky (2020)

Directed by: George Clooney

Premise: Based on the book Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. As Earth’s environment collapses, a scientist (George Clooney) attempts to contact the crew of a spacecraft who have been exploring a hospitable planet.    

What Works: The Midnight Sky has a few remarkable images. The Antarctica sequences make effective use of the barren landscape and the spaceship portions of the movie capture the vastness of space. While it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, the craftsmanship is impressive. The filmmakers effectively juxtapose the dangerous and oppressive qualities of nature with the warmth of the human characters and their domestic spaces. That contrast succeeds because of the film’s performances. Everyone is quite good in this. George Clooney is withdrawn and somber, his character wrestling with the possibility that he is the last man on Earth, but he opens up when he’s forced to interact with a young girl played by Caoilinn Springall. David Oyelowo and Felicity Jones are cast as members of the space crew who are also a couple. She is pregnant and their relationship gives the film some warmth.

What Doesn’t: While the human touch is agreeable, on the whole this film is underwhelming. The Midnight Sky comes at a time when genuine science fiction—as opposed to the science fantasy of Star Wars and its ilk—has returned in a big way with titles like Ex Machina and Interstellar and The Martian. The Midnight Sky reiterates many scenarios seen is other science fiction movies, namely Interstellar and The Wandering Earth, in which the planet is in peril and humans must find a new place to live. These stories are about survival and finding or maintaining the will to live while redefining the concept of home. The Midnight Sky retreads many of the same ideas but it doesn’t present them with any depth. The picture suffers from a lack of introspection on the part of the filmmakers. The collapse of the environment and the failure of civilization aren’t cause for any revelations or affirmations and so the film’s big moments come across flat. The Midnight Sky also suffers from some stupid reveals and forced coincidences. The end of the picture pulls a big twist and it plays like something M. Night Shyamalan would have done in the mid-2000s. The film doesn’t earn the reveal and it causes logical holes in the rest of the movie.

DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: The Midnight Sky has all the elements to succeed but it is ultimately a hollow experience. The film runs through a lot of familiar apocalyptic science fiction clichés and it fails to add anything new or relevant to them.

Episode: #835 (January 17, 2021)