Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: Content may disturb
George Clooney as Augustine
Felicity Jones as Sully
Caoilinn Springall as Iris
David Oyelowo as Commander Adewole
Tiffany Boone as Maya
Demián Bichir as Sanchez
Kyle Chandler as Mitchell
Director: George Clooney
A lone scientist (George Clooney) in the Arctic races to contact a crew of astronauts returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
I heard about George Clooney directing and starring in a movie for Netflix, and that the movie would be in the sci-fi genre. I went in with a relatively open mind considering the mixed reviews, and checked it out for myself. I wouldn’t say The Midnight Sky is bad but I wouldn’t call it good either. It’s for sure got some good elements but on the whole is just okay.
The Midnight Sky consists of two storylines playing at the same time. One is of George Clooney on a base in the arctic, the other is of a crew of astronauts in a ship in space. The Clooney storyline consists of him and a girl trying to make contact with the ship, enduring through harsh and cold conditions to do so. There are aspects of it that could’ve been handled better for sure, but I was relatively interested in it. I liked the simplicity, the dynamic that Clooney’s character has with the girl, and the steady and character driven approach. The whole movie probably would’ve been a lot more effective had it just been this. The other storyline is about a ship returning to earth and it just wasn’t interesting. It holds no emotional gravitas compared to the other, and so the emotional beats fall a bit flat. A big part of that is because we don’t really care about the characters all that much, the characterisation is very weak despite some attempts to define them. Unfortunately, I can’t even really call it a subplot because it has as much screentime as the Clooney storyline, there’s even a whole 20 minute period where Clooney doesn’t make an appearance, almost making you wonder whether he’s actually the main character in all of this. What’s not helping this storyline is that it feels very derivative of other sci-fi movies like Interstellar, Gravity and Ad Astra. Not that it’s inherently a bad thing, but it does highlight that The Midnight Sky just doesn’t succeed nearly as well as those other movies. It really says something that the only moment I really remember from this storyline was when the actors just start singing Sweet Caroline. The movie really is undercut not only by the second storyline, but the constant switching between the two. These two parts don’t really fit together well, and they end up making the tone uneven as they are essentially two separate sci-fi movies trying to co-exist and link together. The third act is where the two storylines come together and intersect, and it’s meant to be quite an emotional punch, but it really fumbles the bag with that and just has no impact at all. As you can probably tell already the biggest issue with the movie is the script, and there are plenty of other issues with it that I haven’t even gotten to yet. The dialogue a lot of the time is stiff and uninteresting, and you don’t really care about many of the plot twists. The use of flashbacks (mainly with George Clooney) weren’t handled the best and feel quite out of place. The longer runtime just makes the viewing experience that much more tedious, 2 hours may not sound long, but with the slow pacing combined with a less than riveting story makes it a bit of a slog. Another side note, the last scene with the credits was really awkward, it’s one of those credits where they play it right in the middle of the scene and so we are effectively watching them roll credits before the ending has actually ended.
There is a good cast involved in the movie, but generally they aren’t utilised the best. George Clooney does well in essentially the lead role. His character doesn’t amount to much outside of a sombre and quiet person with a regretful past, but Clooney plays him well. The crew of the ship in space are played by Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demian Bichir, and Kyle Chandler. The actors played their parts relatively well but are definitely held back by their bland and underdeveloped characters, and so are quite forgetable.
The visuals and direction from George Clooney are where The Midnight Sky works at its best. It’s quite a good looking movie, I like the visual effects, and the production quality is good for the most part. The setting that Clooney is at with the snowy wasteland looks great, and gives the film a uniquely chilly atmosphere. The scenes taking place in the ship in space look decent, but they look like every other sci-fi movie only a little worse. There’s also the score from Alexandre Desplat which is really good and does add something to the movie (even if it doesn’t really save it).
The Midnight Sky is a very flawed movie that manages to have some bright spots. George Clooney acts well in the lead role, and the visuals and other technical elements are solid and impressive at times. However much of the writing is where it holds it back, from a significantly worse second storyline, to a plot that fails to be compelling, interesting or resonant. If it was like 30 minutes shorter, it would’ve been easier to recommend. I guess if you’re really curious about The Midnight Sky, check it out for yourself, but otherwise its probably not worth it.