The midnight sky
Director – George Clooney
Fused – George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Caoilinn Springall
Do you want to spend two hours wondering if George Clooney’s beard grew longer before your eyes? Well, it’s your lucky day. The Midnight Sky is the movie for you.
Directed by Clooney himself, the big-budget sci-fi film does such a bad job of catching the public’s attention that it is a miracle to be able to communicate its basic premise. I can almost imagine the Netflix pitch meeting for that. I wonder if it was the fastest green light in Hollywood history.
Watch the Midnight Sky trailer here
On paper, few ideas could have such a delicious commercialization. You have one of the most recognizable faces on the planet at the top of the image, which sounds like a mix of two Oscar-winning films – Gravity and The Revenant – which are also big blockbusters. Netflix is said to have a data-based approach to making ‘content’, but you don’t need computers that say it’s obvious.
But let this be a lesson, children. Just because something looks attractive doesn’t mean it really is. In their haste to get into the George Clooney business, everyone seems to have forgotten the condition of the script. It needs a lot of polishing.
Written by The Revenant co-writer Mark L Smith and based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s book, The Midnight Sky stars Clooney as a terminally ill scientist left behind on a devastated Earth, while the remains of humanity depart for the looking at a planet to colonize or something.
Meanwhile, in the scorched earth, Clooney’s character, Dr. Augustine Lofthouse (what?), Meets a young woman named Iris. She appears to have been separated from her group, which has now probably passed Ganymede. But more problems are coming: a crew of astronauts on a reconnaissance mission is returning to Earth, alien to the apocalypse. To warn them, Dr. Lofthouse and Iris must travel through the tundra to a station with a strong radio signal.
It is a simple premise, royally complicated by Clooney, who seems determined to give the public more return on his investment. So what should have been a simple survival thriller – half set in space and half on earth, to add an interesting duality to the process – turns into, in a conservative estimate, four and a half films in one.
In addition to the most obvious references to Gravity and The Revenant, Clooney also appears to be borrowing liberally from Interstellar, Oblivion and War for the Planet of the Apes.
There is a tonal dissonance in the film’s two distinct stories; lack of urgency of the procedure, although time has played such a fundamental role. That’s because Clooney’s direction sucks all the tension out of the film. A more experienced hand could have done wonders with the two time-running missions, unfolding in parallel with each other – Dr. Lofthouse on Earth, literally dying, and astronauts in space, also hurling themselves to death certain. But the astronaut’s crew is so poorly written that the film has to feature a meteor shower to inject some drama.
Also read: Principle film review: Christopher Nolan’s new film is both disheartening and oppressive at the same time, but it is not worth risking your life for
Meanwhile, on Earth, Dr. Lofthouse loses his dialysis machine in a blizzard, but manages to hold little Iris. The narrative is robotic, and Alexandre Desplat’s authoritative score does not help at all. You are constantly listening to what you feel – from wonder to fantasy and concern.
There is no dawn at the end of The Midnight Sky. It is a misfire of astronomical proportions. The moment a turnaround in the third act appears, as anticipated, you will probably want to jump headlong into an irradiated desert.