The Midnight Sky

THE MIDNIGHT SKY has George Clooney direct himself and a choice crew in his fourth delve into science-fiction, following the various themes and perils of Solaris, Gravity, and Tomorrowland with a somber post-apocalyptic elegy. From bleak 2020, fittingly enough, when the doom-portent appearance of Covid, while not the extermination event posed by the story, kept release of the film to just a handful theaters (to qualify for awards), leaving its own uncertain future to Netflix and discs. Visually striking and well-acted, the downbeat material and measured pacing would likely have had trouble recouping its $100,000,000 price tag anyway, with mass audiences who’ve mostly been pre-wired for rah-rah escapist juice to take their minds off how utterly we’ve screwed ourselves. Mark L. Smith’s screenplay was based off Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel “Good Morning, Midnight”. *

I’m afraid we didn’t do a very good job of looking after the place while you were away.

The Arctic, 2049. Isolated in his research station after others have been evacuated, scientist ‘Augustine’ (Clooney) tries to make contact with a colonizing mission returning from one of Jupiter’s moons, found able to support human life. The crew (Felicity Jones, David Oyeloyo, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bicher and Tiffany Boone) know there’s some reason contact with Earth has ceased, but they don’t know why. Augustine does.  Already hampered by health problems, he makes a desperate trek to a location better suited for contact, a last-gasp attempt to warn the astronauts away from what’s transpired in their absence. He’s joined by a little girl (Caoillin Springall), who was accidentally left behind during the evac. While the pair face the Polar elements, the spacecraft crew contend with damage from asteroids.

Handsome production with elegantly crafted special effects, and yikes, that’s a real blizzard they’re working in: filming was done in 50mph winds that dropped the temperature to -40 below. That location was in Iceland, other shooting was done in England and the Canary Islands. Subdued but strong performance from Clooney, solid, smartly low-key work from the aces in support, and 7-year-old Springall, in her first film, is a total charmer; she’s a lock for a new career to follow. Fine score from Alexandre Desplat.

The visual effects drew an Oscar nomination.With Ethan Peck (Augustine as a young man) and Sophie Rundle. 118 minutes.

 * Possibly the title was changed from that of the book, as “Good Morning, Midnight” was too close to Clooney’s drama Good Night, and Good Luck.

The casting of Peck, 34, close enough in appearance to play a younger Clooney, is accompanied by a clip of his grandfather, Gregory, with Ava Gardner, from 1959s classic On The Beach, a poignant and pointed reminder that six decades later we’re still one bad decision away from annihilation. Congratulations, folks—we knew you had in in you.

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