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George At 

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The Midnight Sky

Anyone remember Douglas Trumball’s 1972 sci-fi eco-thriller “Silent Running”? A guilty pleasure starring Bruce Dern as an astronaut with a precious cargo of plants and animals from a decimated Earth, it’s an interesting premise well executed.

Okay, take that film, mix in a generously familiar dash of Clooney’s “Gravity” and then splice it in with a North Pole set version of ‘The Revenant” and you have the mashup that is George Clooney’s THE MIDNIGHT SKY.

Clooney is Augustine, the lonely, seemingly last man on Earth after an unshown apocalyptic event that’s spreading a lethal cloud across the entire planet.

He’s already on borrowed time against a fatal disease and trying to stay alive long enough to contact the astronauts aboard a massive ship returning to Earth from their mission to discover a more hospitable planet than what’s left of our planet in 2049.

Augustine has to warn them not to come back home, there’s nothing left.

The film bounces back and forth between Augustine at the North Pole and the crew of the spaceship. The space set scenes are stunning, and no money’s been spared on special effects or casting.

David Oyelowo (Selma) is terrific as Captain Adewole, keeping an even hand and strong loyalty in the midst of meteor strikes, the sudden discovery that they’re way off course and the inability to reach NASA. Felicity Jones (Rogue One, The Theory of Everything) is Sully, pregnant with their child and desperate to return to Earth. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) is a bit of a weak link as Mitchell, Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight) is good as Sanchez and Tiffany Boone is very good as Maya, dreading her first spacewalk to repair the ship.

That spacewalk sequence is terrific, generating some of the best moments of the film.

Meanwhile, back in Santa land at the North Pole, Augustine discovers a young girl Iris, inexplicably hiding at the space complex. She’s a silent companion to him and seems to bring him renewed strength and focus. He realizes that he must get to the bigger satellite dish to make contact with the ship, necessitating a blizzard ridden cross country trek through white out conditions. Enter those “Revenant” references.

I’m not sure how Augustine survives some of the things he goes through on that trek, especially after you rethink them in light of the film’s big surprise, but it’s even more of a miracle that the film survives some seriously intrusive flashbacks to a young Augustine, played by Ethan Peck but distractingly dubbed by Clooney.

There is a nice emotional payoff during the big reveal near the end of the film, but Director Clooney seems to let that moment go with the final title sequence and ending, which just sort of peter out into a dull ending that seems an ill fit with the decisions for the human race that were just made.

As the lead, Clooney is great. He’s never looked worse but delivers as Augustine. Oyelowo and Jones are both great actors and work well together. But overall, the film feels disjointed, bouncing between the Earth and our Astronauts. I groaned every time it flashbacked; you could cut half of them with no effect to the story.

On a technical level, its excellent. The photography by Martin Ruhe (The American) is very good and Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) delivers another beautiful score with some strong action notes during the spacewalk scene.

If only it all came together into something more compelling.

It’s an admirable effort with a great cast but feels too derivative of better films to ever assemble into something truly great.


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