The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Netflix] - THE MIDNIGHT SKY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/Netflix] - THE MIDNIGHT SKY

the midnight sky review
A scientist attempts to stop a spacecraft returning to a doomed Earth.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: George Clooney

Starring: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Caoilinn Springall, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone

the midnight sky poster

Recently, movies about space exploration have been obsessed with issues of the Daddy (Ad Astra; First Man; Interstellar) and Mommy (Proxima; Gravity) variety. With The Midnight Sky, his adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton's sci-fi novel 'Good Morning, Midnight', George Clooney delivers a double whammy of both Mommy and Daddy issues set against the greater backdrop of the looming end of humanity.

The Daddy issues come courtesy of Clooney himself as Augustine, a terminally ill scientist (we know this because he coughs every once in a while and eats pills like Smarties) who discovered a distant planet, labelled 'K-23', which appears suitable for human habitation. A mission set off to check out the planet a few years ago, but it was too late, as Earth is currently being ravaged by an apocalyptic event that is quickly making our planet uninhabitable. As is usually the case, a select few important folk have retreated to underground bunkers, but Augustine has decided to stay put at his research station in the Arctic, as it will be the last place on Earth to feel the effects of the oncoming catastrophe. Augustine believes he's been left alone, so he's shocked to find a mute girl, whom he comes to call Iris (Caoilinn Springall), has stayed behind with him.

the midnight sky review

Recalling in flashbacks (where the young Augustine is played by Clooney lookalike Ethan Peck) how he refused to acknowledge his own daughter, Augustine resolves to look after Iris for as long as is possible in the circumstances. It's odd that the film deems it necessary to give Augustine a history of paternal neglect for him to care about the child - wouldn't any non-psychopath look after her regardless of their own background?

The Mommy issues arise in the pregnant form of astronaut Sully (Felicity Jones), the leader of the crew of the spaceship sent to investigate K-23. They're all full of joy, having determined that the planet can indeed support human life, but as they've been out of range of contact with Earth for so long, they have no idea of what's happened back home. Augustine and Iris set off on a dangerous trek North to a giant antenna that will allow him to contact Sully and warn her crew not to return.

the midnight sky review

As a basic setup, The Midnight Sky has the makings of a great episode of some Outer Limits-esque sci-fi anthology series, but it struggles to pad out its two hour running time. The story is too reliant on the old cliché of the scientist who becomes so obsessed with his work that he neglects his family, and the flashbacks that spell this out are so crudely written and performed that you'd be forgiven for thinking Clooney had edited scenes from a daytime soap opera into his film. Iris exists to get Augustine thinking about his own regrets, but she's mainly a cheap storytelling prop that gives him someone to explain the plot to along with the audience. The pair's trek across the treacherous tundra promises much danger, with hazardous conditions and hungry wolves on the prowl, but it ends up being a relative walk in the park, and even Augustine's terminal health condition doesn't seem to slow him down all that much.

Up in space, the drama is just as inert. Sully and her crew, including her child's father, scientist Tom (David Oyelowo), are a poorly sketched lot. There's little in the way of suspense when it comes to their subplot either, and at one point that most tired of sci-fi clichés rears its head - yes, the astronauts are forced to take a spacewalk to repair the outside of their craft.

the midnight sky review

The baby in Sully's belly is meant to represent hope for humanity, a possible future, but once you start thinking about how it's going to require incest for our species to survive - well, the mood is somewhat spoiled.

It's unclear what message Clooney wants us to take from what is ultimately a surprisingly pessimistic vision of the future. His Augustine is scolded by the film for neglecting his daughter, but after all, he was devoting his time to, you know, TRYING TO SAVE THE HUMAN RACE. It's not like he spent her childhood down the boozer with his mates. If the price of our collective survival is one little girl growing up without a Dad, it's a small fee in the grand scheme.

The Midnight Sky is in UK/ROI cinemas now and on Netflix from December 23rd.

2020 movie reviews