A global catastrophe known as ‘the event’, has plunged Earth into an extinction level threat. The climate has changed, and with it the situations in which our very existence relies upon. In this fictional story, based on the book ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ by author Lily Brooks-Dalton, actor/director George Clooney demonstrates a future, in which we were too late to act. But, there’s still one last hope for the human race.
He plays astronomer Augustine Lofthouse. A now dying, old man that has dedicated his life to finding a new suitable world for us to inhabit, as when the inevitable happens, it could end the human race as we know it. In the brink of such a huge discovery, it seemed to be all for nothing, as Earth is quickly succumbed to a toxic graveyard. Augustine however, still determined to save whatever is left of the human race, stays behind in an Arctic outpost, whilst the rest of humanity flee to their families for their final goodbyes.
It’s 2049 and it’s been three weeks since ‘the event’, and Augustine was believed to be the last remaining human on Earth, until he stumbles upon Iris. A young child seemingly left behind from the rush of the panicked persons, held up in the Arctic circle. The two could be a last resort saviour for the human race, as outside of Earth’s atmosphere is a group of astronauts heading back to Earth after discovering a habitable moon just off of Jupiter. K-23 as the moon is named, is believed to be the answers to our worldly problems.
The passengers of spacecraft Aether, are on their way home from their two year expedition to deliver the good news, but haven’t been able to reach NASA since ‘the event’ occurred. What these passengers aren’t aware of, is what is waiting for them when they return. Augustine must traverse the tough conditions of the Arctic in order to reach a comms tower, so he can get in touch with the unaware crew of Aether.
It’s impossible to view a movie such as this without having to draw some comparisons. Especially given the influx of space dramas over the years. The Midnight Sky lacks the visual importance of Gravity (2013). It doesn’t reach the same level of favourable storytelling as Interstellar (2014). It even fails to provide the charm and warming embrace of The Martian (2015). The Midnight Sky is instead an incredibly moody, deeply distressing endeavour that features a handful of questionable choices and harrowing implications.
The screen time is relatively split between Clooney’s bleak survival mission with Augustine, and the astronaut’s disastrous dissent back to Earth. We get some good character moments with the crew of Aether. Felicity Jones (Rogue One, The Theory of Everything), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, Super 8) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Gringo) have the most depth behind their characters. As the crew are left in the dark in regards to their return, and a few hiccups create potential catastrophe for the space cowboys, it becomes quite a shift in regards to the threat levels Augustine is experiencing back on Earth. We’re even given a space walk segment that isn’t quite as impactful when you realise Gravity achieved far more with its visual representation.
Augustine’s perilous and persistent nightmare though, provides much more of the movie’s engaging and interesting moments. His willingness to get word out to the crew, creates the film’s more cinematic and alluring attributes and remains the highlights after the credits roll. Had the film stuck with either aspect of survival, wether it be to keep focus on Clooney’s journey, or that of the crew stuck in space, the movie would have been better for it. As opposed to the constant tonal shift of juggling both. Although the former choice, would have certainly benefited more.
Clooney’s directional effort poses intrigue at every corner, but fails to build upon its creative choices when it desperately needed to. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with the plot, there are a few indiscretions within its narrative, that I simply cannot ignore. It’s a depressing end to an equally depressing year, and had it been released sometime in the near future, once we’ve all cheered up a bit, we’d perhaps have more to be excited about. But as it is, The Midnight Sky is an average addition to the increasing demand for a great space story.