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The slow burn of ‘The Midnight Sky’

George Clooney… Is there anything that this man cannot do? Aside from being one of the world’s most handsome men (yes, apparently there actually is an award for that) and an Oscar-winning actor, Clooney is also a seasoned film director. Unlike many of the films that Clooney has acted in over the years as a director, he seems to steer clear of big blockbusters and instead focus on films that appeal more to the serious cinephile.


By David Griffiths

Sunday 10 January 2021, 02:00PM


George Clooney in ‘The Midnight Sky’. Photo: IMDB

George Clooney in ‘The Midnight Sky’. Photo: IMDB

His film topics have been varied – from the early days of American football, Leatherheads, through to the dirty tricks of a political campaign, The Ides Of March – but his films have always been thought-provoking, creative and seem to bring the best performances out of the actors in them. Now Clooney’s latest offering takes audiences into space and has just landed on Netflix.

The Midnight Sky revolves around Augustine (Clooney – Up In The Air) a scientist who finds himself left behind at a scientific base in the Arctic after a catastrophic, mystery event sweeps across the Earth killing most of the population. While the rest of the base evacuates to try and find a safer area Augustine remains because they are unsure if any of the space missions remain unaffected.

Only hours after the evacuation though, Augustine discovers that he is not alone and finds himself having to try and befriend a young girl named Iris (newcomer Caolinn Springall) who has become separated from her mother.

Meanwhile, Augustine also makes contact with the crew of a space mission on their way back to Earth, completely unaware of the devastation sweeping around the globe. But soon the crew which consists of crew members including Sully (Felicity Jones – Rogue One: A Star Wars Saga), Adewole (David Oyelowo – Selma) and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler – Super 8) are facing dangerous events of their own.

What excites some viewers about this film will frustrate others. Clooney takes a leaf out of the directional style of Duncan Jones’ Moon. The events are almost told in real time and because the film is centring around Augustine and Sully as its main characters it completely ignores the mass panic that must be going on around the world because they are not eyewitnesses to it. The result is a slow moving film that focuses more on the character’s journeys rather than exploding buildings and bridges collapsing.

The slow nature of the film is a thing of beauty and at times works well but at other times it is the film’s downfall. It feels like at times that it saps most of the suspense out of the film. The journey that Augustine and Iris must make to the other base feels like it should be a movie in itself but it is over in the blink of an eye while the events on board the space station pale into insignificance when you compare them to what we saw with films like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine or a film Clooney should be very aware of – Gravity.

While Clooney is a great director in his own right delivering a movie like The Midnight Sky in the style that he aimed for is an ambitious project. While there are moments of true beauty in this film it is hardly the apocalyptic masterpiece that Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is. It is also amazing to see Clooney attempt a more artistic film away from the thought-provoking dramas that we are used to seeing him create.

The Midnight Sky is not a film that every Netflix viewer is going to instantly fall in love with. It is the kind of film I sense gets better after two or three viewings. The power of this film rests a lot in its performances. Clooney is brilliant playing the older Augustine while Felicity Jones reminds the audience what a power-house performer she is. Perhaps the most praise though should go to young Caolinn Springall who announces herself as an actress to watch in the future.

The Midnight Sky is a slow burn but it does show that George Clooney does have the ability to take the next step as a director and it entertains throughout.

The Midnight Sky is currently screening on Netflix and is unrated in Thailand.


David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus

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