Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Midnight Sky - Review

The late-breaking space film with hopes of awards glory is basically a staple of the yearly release calendar over the last eight years or so. A visual spectacle with an emotional story and a beautifully done score by a well regarded, award winning composer, and you’ve got the formula for a film that’s at least going to get the attention of awards bodies. However, if you don’t back that up with consistent storytelling or any good characterization, you’re left with another awards season slog. 

In the not so distant future of 2049, sans the Blade Runners of course, Augustine Lofthouse, played by George Clooney, who also directed the film, struggles to make contact with any returning vessels, and warn them of the dangers that await them on Earth. Only one mission is still active, and the crew on board remain in the dark on the dire situation on Earth.

To say that The Midnight Sky has a promising, yet familiar, premise would be an understatement. It handles like a greatest hits of all the aforementioned space films of the last decade, never truly becoming its own worthwhile endeavor. While there are some good technical elements, mainly the production design and the lovely score from Alexandre Desplat, those parts don’t make a good film on their own. And rest assured, The Midnight Sky is not a very good movie.

Clooney is far better in front of the camera than behind it this go around. The actor ditches any semblance of his charisma for a haggard, tired performance and he absolutely sells it well. The film is at its most interesting when he is on the screen. Unfortunately, the film isn’t focused entirely on Clooney’s character, and instead, splits the story between him and the far less interesting supporting cast. Where the story of Augustine feels like an interesting perspective on the end of the world, the space scenes feel like standard sci-fi fluff that audiences have seen a hundred times by now.

That is ultimately the film’s biggest flaw: its total lack of cohesion. Through its bouncing back and forth between two essentially separate stories and the inclusion of occasional flashbacks, The Midnight Sky never can get into the groove of the story it wants to tell. It has fleeting moments of promise, but before it can build on any of them towards a new level, it switches to the other half of this two sided story, and all momentum is lost. 

There was a time that George Clooney’s abilities in the director’s chair were believed to be solid at least, but lately it seems that he just can’t direct a compelling film in any way, shape or form. Without the somewhat appealing visuals, and the Netflix marketing department, The Midnight Sky would be just another sci-fi flick with nothing new and nothing that remotely justifies spending two hours of your life on. There are worse films in 2020, but few are as disappointing as this. 

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