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Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Midnight Sky review: George Clooney directorial misses the mark

The Midnight Sky drifts along almost meaninglessly, between space and Earth, not able to decide what it wants to be except an elegy to heroism.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Shalini Langer | December 23, 2020 6:02:05 pm
The Midnight SkyThe Midnight Sky is streaming on Netflix. (Photo: Netflix)

The Midnight Sky movie cast: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Caoilinn Spingall, Kyle Chandler
The Midnight Sky movie director: George Clooney
The Midnight Sky movie rating: Two stars

As if we weren’t already looking at a bleak end to 2020 comes along a film where the world is 29 years from hence, humanity is endangered due to contaminated air, the only healthy beings are in a spaceship drifting up there, and George Clooney is ailing, and in a dirty plaid shirt, his head nearly shaved, and his face all covered with a messy, grey, long beard. Not only has one of the ‘World’s Sexiest Man Alive’ decided to be old, he is so old that a younger actor who does him no justice plays him in flashback.

Even worse, The Midnight Sky is packed with metaphors — the vast emptiness of space and that of a ravaged earth, lives that are snuffed out and lives that are taking shape, a man who wouldn’t be a father and a man who finds himself thrust in the role of one. And yet, the film drifts along almost meaninglessly, between space and Earth, not able to decide what it wants to be except an elegy to heroism.

Two of those heroes are Dr Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), who chose to stay back at a space observatory for likely death rather than being evacuated, and a little girl in a yellow frock he discovers there one day. Once upon a time, Augustine had found K-23, a Jupiter moon that could support life, and as our planet dies to an “Event” that the film shies away from explaining, his ailing, terminally ill self feels responsible for it, like any self-recriminating good environmentalist. The girl (Spingall) refuses to speak, though manages to convey her name is Iris. It is her eyes that do all the talking — big, luminescent saucers, they are like a galaxy of their own, around her shining pupil.

The other heroes are on the spaceship, Aether, that is headed to Earth after its mission to K-23, finding that all that Augustine predicted about it is true. They include Captain Tom (Oyelowo), his partner Sully (Jones) and three others, who go through a series of accidents that they survive with such surprisingly good spirits that even the film feels the need to comment on their lack of panic. The spaceship is detailed in such intricate complexity that one feels one has strayed into a different film, even as Augustine and Iris survive a snowstorm, fall into an icy lake, polar cold, wolves, and some dying birds, but are then left forgotten for long stretches of time.

The Midnight Sky meanwhile progresses on a languid pace, broken only by snatches of flashbacks that don’t do Augustine any credit, and some nice music that doesn’t do the film’s need to pick up pace any good.

In a year that’s been all about survival, it’s almost cruel to welcome death with such equanimity.

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