Happy new year, my fellow filmies! Now that we have left a year that has shaken the whole world up, we can now look forward to a new start where things can start to look more positive. As any film fan will know, we’ve now entered the period of awards season which means plenty of screeners, numerous streaming site subscriptions and hopefully plenty of cinema trips if and when they reopen. Embarking on the quest to watch as many films up for contention has gone off to a great start and the latest on my watch list is Netflix’s The Midnight Sky directed by and starring George Clooney. The film takes place in a dystopian future where Earth is becoming more inhabitable. Humans have been evacuated onto spaceships in order to find a new planet to settle down on. Clooney plays research scientist, Augustine, the only survivor left on Earth as he is terminally ill and needs dialysis to survive. He keeps in contact with a ship called Æther whose team has discovered a habitable moon called K-23 that orbits Jupiter.
George Clooney’s direction is hugely ambitious as this marks his biggest directorial project yet. With a huge handful of successful adaptations under his belt, The Midnight Sky is an adaptation of the 2016 novel, Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. With a screenplay written by Mark D. Smith and a massive budget of $100 million, Clooney brings together a renowned cast and crew for the film and the result is a huge spectacle that feels like an event in the same vein of other 21st century space sagas like Gravity (which also stars Clooney) and Interstellar. However, where the film excels in its special effects and grandeur, it seems to lack a little in the characterisation and we don’t quite get to know the main characters as well as I would like, especially the leads Augustine and Sully (Felicity Jones).
As mentioned previously, we have George Clooney and Felicity Jones as the film’s leads. Both play scientists in different setting and never share a scene together and yet they have a touching friendship as they compare notes. With Augustine having theorised that K-23 was habitable 30 years prior as shown through flashbacks, Sully and her team aboard the ship have actually proven his research to be correct. Clooney sets himself a huge challenge as his scenes only consist of him and a young girl called Iris (Caoilinn Springall) who can’t speak. Having to drive the scenes largely himself, it’s a huge undertaking and at times the action happening can overwhelm the emotion and make the film inaudible at times. On the other hand, Jones spends her scenes aboard the Æther which is heading to Earth to share their discovery of K-23. Working as an astronaut whilst pregnant, Sully is a resilient character. Despite being in her condition, she still puts in her fair share of hardwork like the others in the crew. Jones has shown time and time again that she is a strong leading lady, which is clearly demonstrated in The Theory of Everything and Rogue One. I think that Jones isn’t quite given the screentime and characterisation that she needs to really standout but she does a solid job with what she has.
For the supporting cast, Clooney fills the casting list with more familiar faces. My personal favourites in support were Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir as astronauts Mitchell and Sanchez. Not only are Chandler and Birchir hugely likeable presences in any films, but it’s nice to see them in roles where they are able to provide a lot of subtle comic relief. Leading a team recital of “Sweet Caroline” from the control panel as everyone else is repairing the outside of the ship, it’s clear that Chandler and Birchir are having a blast in their roles. As they are only in support, they aren’t in the film that long and honestly, I think the film would have benefitted from incorporating them more into Sully’s storyline and showing their friendship to establish the family vibe that Clooney was aiming for. This would give the events that unfold a lot more impact.
The strongest aspect in this film for me is the beautiful score composed by the legendary Alexandre Desplat. Keeping the music subtle and more classical, Desplat’s score contrasts the sci-fi genre of the film and gears it towards the dramatic side, providing a heavier backdrop to the overall film. When watching the film, my ears kept picking up the music and it would grab my attention more than the story was and I instantly knew that it had to be a Deaplat score. As a huge fan of Desplat’s score, it’s clear that he is one of the best film composers working today and proves his amazing talent for working on any kind of film.
Overall, The Midnight Sky is a film that bites off more than it can chew. Individually, each aspect from the acting to the special effects to the scores work but when you mix it all together, it becomes a bit overwhelming without actually pushing a developed narrative. It’s great to see Clooney in front of the camera for a film since 2016’s Money Monster. I do wonder if the film would have benefitted more from a cinematic release. Granted cinemas are closed but this was always destined to release on Netflix. A lot of space dramas tend to have a stronger and positive response from a big screen viewing. That being said, it is a film I will probably revisit to see if I grow to like it more as there were some fantastic scenes throughout.
What did you think of The Midnight Sky? Let me know in the comments below!
The Midnight Sky is available to watch now on Netflix.