Director(s): George Clooney
Writer(s): Mark L. Smith
Cast: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo
Synopsis: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
Space has always been something fascinating to me. A discovery of the great beyond in exploration to worlds and universes unknown. Of course, we have been to the moon, and have sent rovers to other planets, but the only way of pure exploration into space is through film. Traversing past planets and through the solar system in a way that has never been done in the real world.
The Midnight Sky, I feel, is a movie about exploration. In the diegesis of the film, the movie explores the race against time to save one of the last remaining spaceships coming back from their voyage. In the real world, this film is an exploration for Clooney into the Sci-Fi realm. He has been through this process as an actor before, with 2013’s hit Gravity, but he has yet to tackle such a technologically driven film yet as a director. While I can applaud him for making the effort to try something new, this film just wasn’t near the standards placed by Space/Sci-Fi films before it.
We get placed into this world three weeks after “The Event”. What the event is? We never find out, we just know there was a massive event that caused everyone to flee. At this point, we don’t know where to, or what from, but that they are fleeing the area. One man stays behind though, and that man is Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney). Why is he staying behind? We don’t find out for a while this question either. But at this point, we know there is a massive event, and that Lofthouse must stay behind.
I think one of my biggest issues out of the gate is the lack of any useful exposition in the entire film. I completely understand wanting to keep a mysterious tone and aura around what is happening, but when every single plot point becomes just another unanswered question, it becomes frustrating for the viewer to watch. Either they feel dumb for not being able to tie together the film, or they just get bored with trying to even keep up with the film at all. The latter is where I fell on the spectrum as over time I could just feel myself getting less and less interested in the story. I wanted to care for the situation that was going on for Lofthouse, but with how disengaging the film was it was hard to really feel any sort of connection to the characters.
When we finally found “the crew”, and learned what Lofthouse was trying to accomplish, again more questions were raised rather than answered. The consistent amount of plot holes and the lack of any sort of knowledge of what was going on in this universe was a major turn off for me as I was almost forced to make assumptions as to what happened in the entire situation. But, the assumptions I made were had no way of being right because nothing was given to us to help us figure out what was going on, or even why it was happening. There were also a few oddly placed flashbacks, that truthfully didn’t add the character development the film clearly wanted them to add.
There was a strong influence from other Space films that were so easy to recognize, one of the biggest being The Martian, but everywhere those movies excelled, this one failed hard. It seemed like the writing for this film attempted to just bite off more than it could chew, and happened to spit out something that could pass for a film.
This isn’t to say everything about the film is bad. The direction from Clooney is sharp as always, and I think this is one of his better performances as of late. You understand his motives and can pick up on where the film is heading early on, but Clooney can make you want to feel deeply for this character on an emotional level. There is a particular scene that Clooney performs beautifully that I really felt this film could have been something amazing if it wasn’t as focused on doing so much. While some of the techs seemed gimmicky, others were as top-notch as what we have seen. One moment in particular in the spaceship was a haunting moment that included some beautiful effects.
The real MVP of this film, however, was the score from Alexandre Desplat. My gosh, if there was one thing that kept me interested it was the amazing work from this veteran composer. This two-time Oscar winner is delivering one of the best work of his entire career. Where this film missed on so many Space elements, the one it didn’t was music and sound.
Final: The Midnight Sky has some impressive visuals and a powerful score, but lacks any sort of useful exposition to help us through the film. It became a chore trying to piece the film together, and when you started to understand it, it didn’t feel like it earned it. An ambitious project for Clooney that sadly fell flat in the long run.
Awards Prospects: Original Score
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.