George Clooney produces, directs and stars in a romantic space-drama heavily inflected by his previous Solaris and Gravity pictures. Quite why Netflix chose to release this maudlin mankind-stumbles-across-the-stars space opera during a global pandemic remains a mystery.
2049: as the first crewed mission to an inhabitable moon of Jupiter returns, the Earth suffers a global cataclysm. Clooney‘s terminally-ill exo-biologist, Augustine Lofthouse, possibly the last man alive on the planet, clings on desperately to make contact with the ship for reasons of his own. The astronauts above have to deal with equipment failure, space debris, accidents and the psychological stress of two years away in a floating spa resort. The spaceship is evidently so comfortable that the captain (David Oyelwo) and communications officer (Felicity Jones) have started the first inter-planetary pregnancy. Pretty sure that kind of fraternisation isn’t in the officers’ manual…
Meanwhile Clooney, finds a child left behind in the chaotic evacuation of civilians from his arctic base; soon the pair begin a perilous trek across treacherous ice, to reach a radio antenna powerful enough to contact the ship.
Amidst the derring-do of space-walks and arctic trekking, all the cast try to come to terms with mortality and extinction; but you have to say the global catastrophe and lack of a home to return to puts a downer on the whole thing. With Alexandre Desplat’s lush orchestral score providing an extra hard tug on the heart strings, the prospect of a human population of a small handful by the end isn’t exactly uplifting.
Clooney keeps the sci- of his -fi to a minimum to let the human drama play out, albeit with some boys-own adventure along the way. The plot unfolds exactly as any awake member of the audience will predict, so what’s left is the quality of the ensemble performances encompassing the crew along with Clooney and his ward (the young Caoilinn Springall). If you’re a sucker for golden-age sci-fi space-dramas as I am, you’ll be fine with this. RC
The Midnight Sky (2020)
Director: George Clooney
Writer: Mark L. Smith
Genre: sci-fi, drama
Running time: 1h 58m
Cast: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Caoilinn Springall, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, Kyle Chandler, Sophie Rundle, Ethan Peck