It has been four years since George Clooney made a movie, and when he returned, it was with a Netflix original that painted the picture of the end of the world.
The Midnight Sky is not an apocalyptic action movie but is instead a dark and brooding Netflix drama, more the speed of 2001: A Space Odyssey than anything. It even makes end-of-the-world dramas like Children of Men and The Road look action-packed in comparison.
However, there is a lot to like about The Midnight Sky.
When The Midnight Sky starts, the end of the world has already begun. It never says what happened, but it seems that radiation has made most of the planet uninhabitable.
George Clooney (who also directs the movie, based on the novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton) stars as Augustine, a scientist in a remote Arctic outpost. While everyone there is leaving to go back home, where they will apparently all die, he stays at the outpost.
He has a terminal disease and is just going to wait there and die. However, he finds two things worth living for.
Honestly, the most impressive thing here is how Clooney has transformed himself for the role. He is not the suave and debonair man that the world knows, but an older man, broken down, dying. It was an amazing portrayal.
First, there is a little girl who was left behind named Iris (Caoilinn Springall). She doesn’t speak, and Clooney carries every scene they are in, although she expresses so much with her eyes that she carries her part beautifully.
Many of these scenes, shot in the icy landscape, are haunting, made even more so by the incredible musical score by Alexandre Desplat. These scenes tug at your heart, but the music absolutely shatters it.
This is what makes this movie so strong, the personal moments between Clooney and Springall.
However, it takes a lot to get through it, as the movie is a slow burn (that comparison to 2001 was more than just because of the sci-fi elements).
The second reason that Augustine finds to survive is that he knows there is a space crew that found a possible moon that could support life, and they are headed back to Earth with the good news.
Augustine knows they are coming back, and he is racing to get to a powerful antenna to send out a message that Earth is now uninhabitable and warn them to turn back.
This crew includes some great actors, including Felicity Jones’ Sully, David Oyelowo’s Adewole, and Kyle Chandler’s Mitchell.
However, when he finally gets through to them, the craft goes through a space storm of sorts and lost communication and radar, and they have to fix their ship to reconnect with Augustine and find out the truth before it is too late.
There are action set pieces, possibly because Clooney knew those were needed, but that adds on even more time to an otherwise slow-moving movie.
Clooney also pulled out a small Star Trek trick and had a holodeck sort of room for the astronauts, where they can relive their moments from Earth.
It gave them human moments, which was good because outside of a pregnancy and a mishap in space, the crew got the short stick when it came to character development, although the actors were strong enough to carry their roles despite the script.
The best parts of this are not the action set pieces or the life-in-peril moments, but the smaller moments, mostly with Augustine and the little girl talking during the end of the world.
The Midnight Sky is a beautiful but very depressing movie. It is thoughtful and will have people thinking about the ending for days, if not longer, after watching it.
During the current state of the world, especially during the holiday season where people are without their families, this might have been the worst possible time to release a movie like this.
However, if you are someone who wants a thoughtful and touching movie that looks at loneliness, desperation, and struggles, this movie is one that will leave a lasting memory.
There is not a lack of hope here, as Clooney has finished off his story with a tale that shows that life does go on. It is a story of redemption and what happens when Augustine speaks to the space crew and learns about what they found; it is a moment that is as powerful as any.
It is just dialogue and two people talking, and it pays off everything that came before.
Even if it looks like there is no hope, humanity has a promise to uphold, and as long as a person achieves his or her contributions to help it carry on, that might be all that matters.