The 400-Word Review: Midnight Sky
By Sean Collier
December 23, 2020
Who’s up for a cold, bleak tale about humanity destroying itself?
No one? Why not? Too soon, I guess.
The timing isn’t ideal for “Midnight Sky,” a slow and sad work of apocalyptic science fiction. After a year when an unexpected global calamity has spread with rapid speed and claimed a staggering number of lives, seeing a similar (if much more catastrophic) mishap befall Earth on screen is perhaps few people’s idea of a good time. (Other than those of us leaning into the skid. I read “The Stand” this year, so I’m fine.)
But if you can ignore or overcome those resonances, “Midnight Sky” is a gripping and beautiful feature. George Clooney — who seems to have an affinity for melancholy sci-fi, considering this film alongside the “Solaris” remake and “Gravity” — directs the film and stars as Augustine Lofthouse, a scientist partially responsible for extraterrestrial navigation.
Years ago, Lofthouse — played as a young man by Ethan Peck — discovered a potentially habitable moon orbiting Jupiter. In the mid-21st century, a crew (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir and Kyle Chandler) has been sent to explore and set up the beginnings of a base for a potential human colony.
As they begin the journey back to Earth, they find they’re unable to contact anyone — anywhere. As it happens, their mission has coincided with an unnamed cataclysm back home (while “Midnight Sky” is vague about the nature of the event, it appears to be either a deadly disease or technological killer). Within days, Lofthouse, who is manning a research station in the Arctic, may be the only human left alive on Earth’s surface.
Except, that is, for the silent child (Caoilinn Springall) who has been left behind. Lofthouse quickly realizes that the crew approaching Earth may be the only humans with the potential to survive; unfortunately, he can’t reach them from his base. He and the child (who, not coincidentally, recalls Newt from “Aliens”) must make a treacherous, icy journey to reach a big enough antenna to tell the ship to turn around.
Clooney performs well in a grizzled, defeated mode; he excels, however, in the director’s chair. “Midnight Sky” is visually perfect and wonderfully restrained. It will be few people’s favorite film, but is more than admirable. If it sometimes feels a little hollow, that’s natural; it is, after all, the end of the world.
My Rating: 9/10
“Midnight Sky” is streaming on Netflix.