MIDNIGHT SKY, THE
(director: George Clooney; screenwriters: Mark Smith/based on the book by Lily Brooks-Dalton-Good Morning Midnight; cinematographer: Martin Rube; editor: Stephen Mirrione; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: George Clooney (Augustine Lofthouse), Felicity Jones (Sully), David Oyelowo (Tom Adewole), Kyle Chandler (Mitchell), Demian Bichir (Sanchez), Tiffany Boone (Maya Peters), Caoilinn Springall (Iris), Sophie Rundle (Jean, scientist), Ethan Peck (younger Augustine); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Grant Heslov, George Clooney, Keith Redmon, Bard Dorros, Cliff Roberts; Netflix; 2020)
“This literate and lyrical film favors more the mature aesthetic viewer than the thrill-seeking sci-fi fan boy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Midnight Sky is finely scripted by Mark L. Smith. It’s based on the 2016 book by the American novelist Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning Midnight, which is a dystopian fantasy set in part in the Arctic’s Barbeau Observatory in February of 2049.
George Clooney (“The Monuments Men”/”Suburbicon”) is the film’s star, director and co-producer. It’s shot on a remote glacier in Iceland. The post-apocalyptic sci-fi survival drama tells about the man-made environmental collapse of Earth and the belief that space can or must be the new home for humanity.
In this well-staged and well-acted sci-fi drama, Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) is the grey bearded, reclusive, grizzled visionary astronomer in the Arctic, who is downcast over how his life has changed for him, and of being the only human survivor left on Earth. The old-timer is dying from an unnamed illness and must give himself regular blood transfusions to survive.
In a series of flasbacks he is seen back in his days when he was a young optimistic astronaut (played by Ethan Peck) and how he once spurned the love of a fellow scientist (Sophie Rundle) to devote himself fully to be a scientist.
Augustine, in his Observatory, realizes the Earth has been hit with a catastrophe and the rest of the world has taken shelter underground or has disappeared. Radiation from the explosion is spreading all over the world, and is bound to reach him soon. In a surprise, which changes the film’s direction, Augustine finds hiding in the Observatory a frightened 7-year-old girl named Iris (Caoilinn Springall). This leads to another story about a space station named Aether, returning from a two-year failed exploratory trip to K-23, after not finding another livable planet for the human race to possibly live on. On board the space station are the pregnant mission specialist Sully (Felicity Jones), and the father of the child, Captain Tom Adewole (David Oyelowo), the homesick veteran pilot Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), and the philosophical Sanchez (Demián Bichir) and inexperienced Maya Peters (Tiffany Boone). Since the Aether is too far away to pick up Earth’s signals and doesn’t know about the perils the Earth is in, the brave Augustine takes the girl along as he pilots a spaceship to tell Aether not to come to Earth.
The scenes on Earth were riveting, as the scientist deals with loneliness, a sense of loss and a sense of astonishment. The adventure into space story was brilliantly shot by DP Martin Rube but the story was less effective than the visuals.
This literate and lyrical film favors the viewer who is more the mature aesthetic than the thrill-seeking sci-fi fan boy.
REVIEWED ON 12/14/2020 GRADE: B