Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Midnight Sky

What went wrong here? Based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, The Midnight Sky is a mess of mishmashed themes from other films such as The Martian, The Road, Gravity, Apollo 13 and others (all of which work far more effectively than what we're given here). George Clooney directs and stars as the last man on Earth, a dying scientist in the Arctic who remains after the rest of humanity has fled to the stars when "something" happens to the planet (other than it being bad and having to do with radiation, the film never bothers to explain). I'm usually a fan of Clooney, particularly when he steps behind the camera, but The Midnight Sky never quite works.

Apparently none of the fleeing spaceships fare much better than those wiped out by radiation as our scientist turns his attention to one ship returning from a long mission on a moon of Jupiter. While most of the story takes place with Clooney is full grizzly mode, we get flashbacks to his past (where he provides the voice for Ethan Peck in some seriously disjointed scenes), and other sequences show life aboard the returning spaceship.

Conflict in both stories comes from the unexpected. Clooney finds a young girl (Caoilinn Springall) left from the evacuation and the spaceship runs into your usual movie-space-trouble issues with asteroids, course adjustments, and communication problems. In the past, the man's scientific endeavors cost him a chance with the love of his life (Sophie Rundle). The movie tells us the woman is the love of his life, although it fails to offer any on-screen proof of its claim. If the younger version is aloof, the elderly scientist is gruff and fatalistic, albeit with some pangs of regret.

Nearly all of the film's best sequences come aboard the spaceship itself, including sequences in zero gravity, a space walk among the stars, and the various challenges the crew (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, and Tiffany Boone) runs into. The characters and their circumstances are all far more fascinating that Clooney's time babysitting or stumbling around in the Arctic. While all this is competently done, it's in focus, the effects work, and the performances are effective, there's simply no spark here as the plot continues to flounder in hopes that a late twist may miraculous bring everything together. It doesn't. The film's tries to tack on a hopeful note to an otherwise depressing series of events, but having never really sold us on the characters through its disjointed storytelling, The Midnight Sky fails to connect and leaves us untethered and drifting in space hoping for something more interesting to come along.

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