Felicity Jones is pregnant, the planet is dying and the human race stands on the precipice of extinction. But that’s enough news, on with the review.
In the year Blade Runner: 2049, a sole scientist (George Clooney) with an ominous cough and Santa beard tries to make contact with a spaceship crew (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Tiffany Boone and Demián Bichir) to warn them against returning to a now uninhabitable Earth. He finds a mute child (Caoilinn Springall) apparently left behind at his Arctic base, and works out her name is Iris after she draws a picture of a flower.
The Midnight Sky is ambitiously directed by Clooney, having picked up skills for space sequences from his week on the set of Gravity; one of many films whose sentimental sci-fi he unsuccessfully attempts to emulate, along with Contact, Interstellar and Ad Astra – still the only space movie named after a Pizza Express menu item. The script by The Revenant‘s Mark L. Smith falls short of greatness by more than a single initial, packed with stock characters, self-important dialogue and twists so predictable you initially dismiss them for being too obvious.
Clooney struggles to connect his sub-Revenant Arctic adventures with hackneyed flashbacks (“You want to be an explorer Augustine, but while you’re doing that your own life’s just slipping away!”) and the space mission, so the high stakes are seldom apparent. One moment he’s being played by Ethan Peck (Gregory’s grandson), the next the astronauts are singing Sweet Caroline in space. None of it connects emotionally and some of it elicits unintended laughs from the audience. The writing in of Jones’ real-life pregnancy also seems poorly thought through given the unlikelihood of a pregnant woman being allowed to go on spacewalks.
Like so many of us during lockdown, The Midnight Sky simply doesn’t work. Between this 2049 and Blade Runner‘s, it’s a relief we’ll never make it that far.