The Midnight Sky

 

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George Clooney’s seventh film as director is both a superlative and contemplative sci-fi thriller. 

 
Midnight Sky, The

Poles apart: George Clooney and Caoilinn Springall

 

The year is 2049 and George Clooney is on his own. It is, a caption tells us, three weeks after the “event.” Clooney, who also directs the film, plays Augustine Lofthouse, a scientist based at an Arctic research station. Up there, the air is still… well, less than lethal. For the rest of the planet’s inhabitants, the atmosphere has turned against them, with unknown pockets of survivors hiding underground. Meanwhile, Augustine – who is on dialysis and has a nasty cough – is slowly losing touch with reality. He makes himself breakfast twice and then leaves a pan on the hob, starting a minor fire…

 

Initially, The Midnight Sky feels as if it’s in that rare category of drama alongside The Omega Man (1971), its remake I Am Legend (2007) and Moon (2009) – the one-man movie. Then, two plot tweaks change everything. A spaceship returning from a mission near Jupiter makes radio contact. The latter craft, Æther, is manned by five astronauts – the captain Adewole (David Oyelowo), the pregnant Sully (Felicity Jones), Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), Sanchez (Demián Bichir) and flight engineer Maya (Tiffany Boone). Having confirmed that a moon called K-23 is suitable for human habitation, the crew are now returning to Earth, unaware that it can no longer be their home. The other narrative curveball is Augustine’s discovery of a mute seven-year-old girl (Caoilinn Springall), who has been hiding out on his research station…

 

With George Clooney at the helm, one can be confident of something rather special. Indeed, The Midnight Sky is both a consummately crafted piece and a highly emotional experience. Arriving at a time when our own planet is in crisis, its message could not be more pertinent. Clooney himself, as Augustine, throws the image of the Nespresso-quaffing playboy out of the window, embodying a grizzled, wild-eyed old man who is reduced to theatrical coughing fits and moments of madness. The counterpoint to this – the radiant-faced Californian newcomer Springall – is a cinematic coup. She may not speak, but her eyes say everything.

 

Meanwhile, Martin Ruhe’s superlative cinematography captures the surreal extremes of both the Arctic and outer space with cinematic panache. This is one thrilling, powerful movie. It’s also intensely moving and, at times, heart-breaking. And, considering the paucity of human beings on screen, is a profoundly human film.

 

In line with Solaris (2002) and Gravity (2013), both of which starred George Clooney, The Midnight Sky is an authentic, contemplative, grown-up and sometimes transformative sci-fi drama. One could say it completes his futuristic trilogy.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, Kyle Chandler, Caoilinn Springall, Sophie Rundle, Ethan Peck, Miriam Shor, Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir.

 

Dir George Clooney, Pro Grant Heslov, George Clooney, Keith Redmon, Bard Dorros and Cliff Roberts, Screenplay Mark L. Smith, from the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, Ph Martin Ruhe, Pro Des Jim Bissell, Ed Stephen Mirrione, Music Alexandre Desplat, Costumes Jenny Eagan, Sound Kyrsten Mate.

 

Smokehouse Pictures/Anonymous Content-Netflix.

122 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 11 December 2020. Available on Netflix. Cert. 12A.