Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Fine, but...I've seen this before...
I watched The Midnight Sky one night after seeing it on the front page of my Netflix. As an avid sci-fi lover, the title, cast list and premise caught my eye. Earth has suffered an unknown, but fully conclusive global catastrophe that has brought end to pretty much all life. Except our protagonist, George Clooney of course and a young girl that accompanies him. His mission is to contact some astronauts on their way back to Earth in order to warn them of what has happened, so that they can turn back and go to a new hospitable planet with other human refugees.
Honestly, that brief description tells you pretty much what the entire movie is about, and that in itself isn’t an issue. However, the movie is 2 hours and 2 minutes long, and it is a slow, very slow boil. The Midnight Sky suffers from wanting to show two long and hard journeys, whilst also trying to keep the audience entertained. George Clooney’s character Augustine, in conjunction with the astronauts’ voyage home, has a long and arduous trip to make to a radio outpost in the Arctic that will allow him to communicate. Traveling takes a lot of time, especially through space and as films continuously want to expand on their representation of “realistic” space travel, this is one of the main issues writers have to deal with in terms of plot.
The plot of The Midnight Sky by itself is decent enough, but it can only work once the majority of the traveling part of the film has been complete. So what does the writer do with all that time? In this instance, waste my time. Both sets of characters encounter an obstacle of nature on their way to their destination. It’s action-packed, dramatic, flashy, but in the end, quite meaningless. A lot of these sci-fi films nowadays realize their audience will get just as bored as bored astronauts if all we show them doing is waiting to get to wherever they’re going. So something HAS to happen right? Looking at the overall film, what did these obstacles add to the plot? Not much. Both sets of characters made it to where they needed to be, and personally I had no doubt in my mind that they would. Even when a character dies! I could really tell that the only purpose that character served to the story was to convince me there were stakes...the other characters seem to forget what happened only a few scenes later. In turn, there were no stakes and therefore an entire third of the film seemed like a waste of time. Essentially, things happened because something needed to happen.
Overall, I can’t harp TOO much on the filmmaking here. The acting is pretty solid, the music was fine although not particularly memorable, and the cinematography was OK, minus a few random shots here and there which really threw me off as out-of-place. The fact of the matter is, from shot selection, to the plot, and sometimes cheesy dialogue, I feel like I’ve seen this same film 20 times. Would I watch this again? Not a chance. Even when the plot finally kicks off, it’s slow and boring, none of the questions that the film posed its viewer are answered, characters make absurd decisions in the face of this catastrophe, and even the final plot-twist was extremely predictable and left me wanting a lot more. It sucks to put down a project that employed a lot of people, took a lot of time, but with a budget of $100 million, they really could have done better. Should you watch this film? Maybe if it’s 2AM and you REALLY need to watch a film because you won’t fall asleep otherwise.