The Midnight Sky (2020)

“Is anyone out there?”

So very stagnant and stationary, so tragic and so stifling, The Midnight Sky is a textbook example of a film that begs to be felt but never earns its emotions over the course of the exasperating endeavor. The intentions are good. The execution is confused. The final product – and that laughable third act reveal – makes no sense. The Midnight Sky is a misanthropic mess, and further asserts that the charismatic man behind the camera is far more miss than hit. He’s as charming and effective an actor as there is in his generation. I wish he dedicated more of his emotions to those in front of the camera than his mostly fruitless efforts behind.

The film opens in 2049, 3 weeks after what’s labeled as “The Event.” Most people are evacuated from the Arctic Circle Observatory but the renowned Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney), a terminally ill man, chooses to stay behind, hoping to sacrifice himself for the greater good. The only clue as to what “The Event” entails is an atmospheric change, depleting the surroundings of oxygen and making Earth uninhabitable. Spaceships were sent out like science focused realtors/explorers on galactic journeys to find mankind’s newest safe space, and it becomes Augustine’s mission to make sure they don’t return to a home that’s finally turned its back on the abusive inhabitants. He hopes they can persist while he knows he cannot. The dichotomy between the here and the there works when it isn’t abandoned.

It’s compelling watching Clooney pop pills and swig back booze while hooking himself up for daily blood transfusions. Existing is hard and he definitely justifies Augustine’s defiant, ramshackle existence. He’s killing himself softly to the tune of his own song, trying to prolong his remote role for the sake of humanity. It’s all so very believable until he gets an unexpected guest, and then the plot literally thickens, only to become a convoluted mess. The Midnight Sky is two stories that haven been blended together as one, and it’s such an uncomfortable fit. The script has scope but offers little insight, making for a movie full of frustratingly bad CGI and tonal inconsistencies. It looks fine but the smell is suspect, and it’s enough to turn your nose at.

Clooney’s character eventually gets lost in the ether of this cosmic drama, disappearing from the narrative altogether, yet only then does the movie finally find a forced sense of urgency. It’s honestly more entertaining to watch the cosmonauts (primarily led by Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir) as they try to find a connection to Earth in the great void of space, and while the the character development is predictable, it’s still so forgivably instinctive. The Midnight Sky wants to be an apocalyptic redemption story, but I’m confident it doesn’t match the grounded nature of The Road. It’s so obvious that Clooney is pulling from his time wandering through Solaristhat he straight up copies his own big sequence from Gravity, and that he’s a great actor but a minor director. The pieces are there but the assembly requires help. A duo of an astonishing actor with a better director might’ve made The Midnight Sky into something more permanent and less of an aimless shooting star. I was so thoroughly underwhelmed.

“I’m the wrong person.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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