Monday, June 17, 2024

REVIEW: George Clooney Space Saga “The Midnight Sky” Has None of the “Gravity” of His Past Flights


What the heck is George Clooney doing in space again? He made a splashy, memorable cameo in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” a perfect trip through cosmos, and should have left well enough alone.

But he’s gone back. In “The Midnight Sky,” Clooney directs and stars in a space opera with two careening stories. In his, George– looking like Grizzly Adams– is Augustine. the last man on a weather station in the Arctic. Something’s gone wrong on Earth, everyone at the station is headed back to the world and oblivion. Clooney stays behind, and discovers a little girl has, too. She doesn’t speak, but she’s very well behaved and follows him around.

Meantime, in deep space, a group of astronauts is trying to get home. Their big, fancy space station ship is falling apart, and so are they. David Oyelowo and Felicity Jones have been up there so long they’re expecting a baby. Damien Bachir and Kyle Chandler are the main guys. and there’s a young black woman scientist played by an actress you’ve never seen before. Guess who’s not going to make it to the end? My sympathies to Tiffany Boone.

There’s also a bunch of people involved in a flashback business, with Ethan Peck playing Young Augustine. Somehow these sepia tinged scenes are supposed to relate to the present story.

Serious space movies really don’t work. “The Martian” was a rare exception. After “Ad Astra,” everyone should have just stopped. Clooney is a smart guy who’s acted in and directed many fine films. I was watching him in “The Descendants” this past weekend, just loving his subtle performance. Ditto “Up in the Air,” “Michael Clayton,” “Syriana,” “Burn After Reading,” “The American,” and “O Brother Where Art Thou?”

But recent projects have yielded trouble. “Money Monster,” ouch. Ditto “Tomorrowland,” and “Monuments Men,” which just implodes on touch. We could explain this looking at his resume: the focus is gone. He’s lost in Nespresso commercials and the sale of a Tequila company. He got married, had kids, made boat loads of money. He’s lost the beat.

In “Midnight Sky,” we’ve got excellent production, it looks gorgeous. I was sad not to be seeing it on a big screen. But we’ve been in this space before, with these same people. It’s not interesting. Also, Clooney’s big weather production with the little girl (the very plucky Caoilinn Springall) is a continuity wreck. It makes so little sense that just have to ignore the realities to keep going.

“Midnight Sky” begins playing on Netflix this weekend. No one will mind it. But really, when you get to the end credits, I don’t know what to say. The movie doesn’t so much end as it just drifts away. The credits just start rolling, rather arbitrarily, but some of the actors refuse to leave the screen. There’s a reason old movies ended with the words The End.



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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