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Film Review: The Midnight Sky (2020)

The Midnight Sky (2020) - source: Netflix
The Midnight Sky (2020) – source: Netflix

IMDb Link: The Midnight Sky (2020)
Director: George Clooney
Writer: Mark L. Smith
Stars: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo
Based on: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Synopsis: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.

When the film started, it had some real potential to be an engaging story. The pacing of the first 30-minutes is sharp, setting up the two main locations that the film would end up focusing on and the leading characters. The world-building is extraordinary, with a large majority of the visual effects being strong and having a nice blend of current technological discoveries with a fantasy twist on the locations and space travel.

There are sequences throughout the film that are incredibly well done beyond the opening act. In particular, there is one long sequence that involves a task that a fellow crewmate Maya (played by Tiffany Boone) has to do on the outside of the ship. I will not give away anything else about this sequence, but the tone, writing, and visual effects all help bring this moment to life and draws you into the scene with the characters.

The story in general, though, is incredibly messy and lacks real focus. The constant bouncing between both locations and, therefore, bouncing of the narrative makes it hard to connect with anyone in the film or to truly know what their motives are. The film loses direction pretty quickly, mainly being a showcase of the technical elements such as the visual effects and the gorgeous score, rather than being a cohesive story with real impact.

The performances throughout the film feel cold for the most part, also not helping give any sort of connection with the characters. For a story that feels like it should drive on emotion and drama, there are very few sequences outside of the opening and the scene I brought up earlier that actually got a reaction out of me. The story does try to give an emotional twist throughout, but I just found that explanation to both be confusing and poorly executed from an emotional standpoint.

This was not a film that needed to be 110+ minutes long for this story. A lot of the time spent on this story is trying to add background information about several crew members that have no impact on the story. The pacing becomes incredibly slow after the opening act as both locations were uncompelling and felt dragged out to be a feature-length film. This was a film that needed re-writing and re-edited to either have a clear focus on a specific character, their journey and to add emotional weight to the film.

There is a good film hidden somewhere in The Midnight Sky. There was clear passion about this story and world, and the technical team put in so much work to bring this world to life. For all of the technical strength within the production of the film, it is just a shame that the script and editing let the story down. In a year where Netflix has been consistently strong, this is a disappointment.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Midnight Sky is now available to watch on Netflix.

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