Space. A stunning expanse that goes on and on and will likely, similarly, go on and on as a genre for movie-makers. This recent outing in the sci-fi realm is directed by actor and environmentalist George Clooney who adapts a novel for Netflix and mostly captures the stirring emptiness of space and desolation of Earth.
At a barren Arctic base is Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), a scientist who has decided to stay put on our deserted planet to hopefully contact people up in space not to return as our home planet is chock-a-block with radiation. Aboard one spacecraft are a team of five people who are returning from Jupiter but dilemmas both high and low could see these far-distanced souls more connected in tragedy than expected.
I think it’s always going to be hard to put out a science fiction feature nowadays, as there have been so, so many released for us to see. But with the right stamp of authority and style over a story then there’s the possibility it could stand out in the crowd, for example Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival or Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, and it’s this latter movie that you cannot help but compare this 2020 film with.
The beauty and alarming danger of what space holds was ramped up to the nth degree in the 2013 Oscar-winning sci-fi and there are more than a few occasions where The Midnight Sky makes you think of that. A gorgeous floating sequence where a trio of characters step out upon a space-walk begins with jovial tunes and descends into literally hard-hitting projectiles and suspense. It never truly feels like Clooney has a big enough mark on his film to stop this streaming option likely fading into the galaxy of science fiction pictures.
The elements of tension with snowstorms in the Arctic and isolation in the skies are sights to behold and we flit back and forth between these scenes with time to breathe in the people, their lives and actions. The developing bond between the gruff and ill Augustine and a young stowaway have lovely peaks and work nicely in revealing a sentimental touch for the climax of the story.
The Aether spaceship is decked out with cool, sleek visuals and an interior cobweb pattern that has parts of the craft looking like the TARDIS, with a rotating section that once again harks back to the designs of Gravity; it’s obvious that star George Clooney picked up some tips and tricks on his shoot seven years ago and though it makes his directorial effort less unique, his source of inspiration definitely does hand the frames a beauty and serenity.
The Midnight Sky has well-placed emotional beats and showcases the flurry of a bitterly cold Arctic where you can almost feel yourself shivering, to the twinkling starry backdrop of space. It’s not lined with enough drama or teeth-chattering thrills to be a dream project, but there’s an undeniable beauty to save The Midnight Sky from crash landing.