Most people will tell you George Clooney’s latest feature is a mixture between a science fiction epic and a survival film with a bit of family drama thrown in for good measure. What they wont say is it is either one or the other, never moulding its dual narratives to any convincing extend, much like the themes and tones it handles throughout. Telling the story of Augustine (Clooney), the lone survivor at an arctic observatory who must trek across the tundra to another station to warn an incoming space expedition of an impending cataclysm on Earth. When he discovers a young girl called Iris (Caoilinn Springall) before he leaves his journey becomes that much harder. Meanwhile the communications officer Sully (Felicity Jones) aboard the ship tries desperately to hail someone from the dying planet.
While Clooney not only makes the most out of elaborate sets and beautiful location shooting to make Augustine’s journey something to behold and Sully’s time aboard the ship something to be seen to be believed, he also differentiates between the two, telling two stories concurrently but never as one. Devised as a ponderous piece about the state of humanity and our hopes for the future, built around a simple but elaborately shot thriller, The Midnight Sky isn’t as intelligent or tense as it likes to believe it is. The plot, something that is plain as day from the very beginning, plays at surprise more that seeking it out, assuming audiences don’t know the difference between genuine feeling and forced emotion. The film consistently flips between accessible family drama with awh shucks grandpa antics to a tale of deep rooted regret with a soundtrack so intentionally depressing it wouldn’t go amiss on Prison FM. As an actor, Clooney keeps the film on its wheels, rolling towards the end but as a director, The Midnight Sky struggles under the weight of the emotions it is trying to convey. Always one of the other, this story is either happy or sad, tense or lifeless, the idea of a middle ground a distant premise. It all comes down to a film that doesn’t feel like its headed anywhere which is somewhat staggering considering both stories are about people trying to get somewhere.