Review: George Clooney's 'The Midnight Sky' fails to reach the heights of its influences

THE MIDNIGHT SKY (2020)George Clooney as Augustine. (Photo: Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX)

The Midnight Sky
3 out of 5 Stars
George Clooney
Writer: Lily Brooks-Dalton, Mark L. Smith
Starring: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Rated: PG-13 for some bloody images and brief strong language

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: With radiation poisoning Earth’s air, all of humankind abandons the planet’s surface. All except for Augustine Lofthouse, a brilliant scientist with a terminal disease, who stays behind to warn an inbound group of astronauts who are unaware of the dire situation.

Review: I’ve always been fascinated by science fiction. Initially that interest was fueled by the original Star Wars trilogy and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” Later it was films like “Alien,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Blade Runner” and more recently “Gravity,” “Ad Astra” and “Interstellar.” It's pretty clear that director/actor George Clooney enjoyed and is influenced by those films as well.

“The Midnight Sky” takes place in a dying world. Science has failed to turn back time and space exploration has yet to find a suitable planet to relocate to. Humankind is leaving, their exact destination is never clear. The film is vague at times. Only Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney) stays behind to try and warn a returning group of scientists who have been on a space exploration mission to turn around and find somewhere else to call home. But Lofthouse isn’t alone. A little girl (Caoilinn Springall) was also left behind.

I hoped that “The Midnight Sky” would be a transcendent film filled with wonder and meaning. It certainly is a beautiful thing to look at. It makes sense on an emotional level. I’m not so sure that it works as a cohesive story. It feels like the connective tissue between the three stories, Lofthouse on Earth, the team of scientists aboard a spacecraft returning and a series of flashbacks, is missing. It’s vague to a fault. In the end, I’m not sure that it really makes any sense.

Of the three strands, Lofthouse’s is the most interesting. It also makes the least amount of sense. The scientists returning to earth has some great moments. It’s mostly a drag that takes away from the Lofthouse narrative. The flashbacks feel clumsily inserted into the story. Their purpose is ambiguous right up until the end of the film. Sadly, the final reveal isn’t nearly the epiphany that it is intended to be. I like the idea behind the ending. I’m not in love with the journey of getting to it. I don’t know if blame goes to Mark L. Smith’s adaptation or the source material, Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” I do know that the film never lives up to my expectations.

"The Midnight Sky" opens in theaters on Friday, December 11, 2020 before it comes to Netflix on Wednesday, December 23, 2020.

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