Movie review: The Midnight Sky
After Suburbicon (2017) and Catch-22 (2019), George Clooney's latest passion project that he stars in, directed and produced is not exactly the movie experience one might expect.
For an apocalyptic sci-fi drama, The Midnight Sky - which premieres on Netflix tomorrow - is so meditative and languidly paced, it may lull you into a state of slumber.
Clooney plays gruff, jaded 70-year-old scientist Augustine Lofthouse, who is battling terminal cancer and isolating at his base in the Arctic while the rest of mankind has evacuated Earth following a cataclysmic radiation event.
When he discovers a mysterious mute girl hiding in the station, the two strike up an unlikely bond - despite the fact that his lofty ambitions and obsession with work had caused him to shut people out - until now.
Meanwhile, Augustine keeps busy by establishing contact with a spacecraft whose crew of astronauts - Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir and Tiffany Boone - are returning from a two-year mission, unaware their home planet has become a toxic wasteland.
Clooney may be effective as the lead, but he is less so as the leader.
The Midnight Sky showcases two different and uneven storylines simultaneously, and how they are linked is revealed only at the end.
It is a poignant payoff with a hopeful, moving and positive message for humanity, that regret can be overcome by redemption. But the orbit you are made to take can sometimes feel like you've been stranded by the film's editor, and it's too little too late.
There are chunks of dramatic inertia, which makes both environments feel that more stark.
Augustine and his kiddy companion share staredowns over meals and one-sided conversations, before we finally get some action when they face freezing temperatures, windstorms and other perilous obstacles as they venture to the North Pole.
The astronauts' daily routines and conversations are equally mundane.
Flat characterisation and muted performances don't help when it comes to the audience's emotional investment either.
It is only when three of them are forced to go on a spacewalk to fix their communications system amid a meteor strike does something of significance actually take place.
And even when it does, we could have detected that on our radar about half an hour earlier.
The Midnight Sky may ruminate about the lost opportunities to connect with others, but the film, unfortunately, suffers the same fate.
FILM: The Midnight Sky
STARRING: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
THE SKINNY: Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), a lonely scientist in the Arctic, races to stop astronaut Sully (Jones) and her crew members from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.