What if this virus we call Covid-19 was able to wipe out all life on earth…or what if our carelessness with our planet’s health, or a despot’s eager finger on the nuclear button ended all life on Earth? Pretty scary right? All life wiped out, except maybe for the few souls on the International Space Station…or maybe a ship returning from a distant planet. We are offered this quandary in a doomsday scenario called The Midnight Sky.
The Midnight Sky is a 2020 American science fiction film which was produced and directed by George Clooney who also stars in the film. It is based on the 2016 novel Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. We are never really told what the cause of the apocalypse is, but the world is covered in a radioactive dust, which confirms option 3 in my prologue. The film also stars Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demian Bichir, Kyle Chandler, Caoilinn Sprigall and Sophia Rundle.
Up at the Artic Circle where the freezing air has temporarily slowed the effects of the radiation, a mother desperately searches for her little girl as people are loaded onto military helicopters to head to an underground bunker. These are scientists, and their families who are considered essential. One man stays behind. He is sick, he needs dialysis treatments every day and this makes it unfeasible for him to take a seat of a healthy person, plus Augustine (George Clooney) has a plan.
I am not sure if Clooney thought the beard would make him look wiser, but it was unkempt, and I just could not get past that bush that sometimes seemed alive. Beard aside, Clooney played his Augustine as a man determined to save a handful of humans. We learn more about Augustine in flashbacks. Augustine was a hard man to love. His work was his passion, and everyone else was cast aside…even his wife and child.
We follow the first few days, with Augustine repeatedly failing to contact Aether before they hit Earth’s atmosphere. When we are almost numb with Augustine’s daily routine…things pick up. First with the scenes happening on the ship, and second, with a little mute girl named Iris (Caoilinn Springall) found abandoned at the Artic station.
The crew of the Aether, which includes a very pregnant Dr. Iris Sully (Felicity Jones), her lover Adewole (David Oyelowo) the Commander of Aether, along with crew members Maya (Tiffany Boone), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), have traveled to and collected evidence from one of Jupiter’s moons. This moon can support human life. The ship itself is a beautiful clockwork image of what future spaceships might resemble, and the Jupiter moon known as K-23 is breathtaking. As a science fiction writer, I had to develop my own planets, and moons for my Roof Oasis series, and the film’s special effects of K-23 and Aether did not fail to inspire me.
The crew of Aether are aware of who Augustine Lofthouse is because he is the scientist who spent his life studying K-23. He was the catalyst for Aether’s mission. The Aether has no contact with Earth and as they head towards a dead planet, they are left to deal with the dangers of space. There are dire results.
At first, I found myself more interested in the events happening on Aether, than I was with Augustine. Clooney hid his usual and well-known playful persona that we have come to look for in all his films, and instead, superbly played his Augustine as a self-centered scientist trying to do one last good deed for humanity. I became more focused on the events happening earth side as Augustine and Iris (Springall) trekked across the frozen tundra to get to another communication tower. There is a special bond between the child and Augustine, which we learn about at the end of the film. The scenes on Aether especially worked because of the talented acting of Felicity Jones and David Oyelowo.
As a side note on how the pandemic has infiltrated every single frame of our once normal lives, we need to remember that The Midnight Sky was supposed to be seen in a theatre, with the seats filled with popcorn eating viewers. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic happened right before the film was to be released. Filming in Iceland is challenging enough with the high winds and freezing temperatures, also finding out that your lead female star was pregnant pushed the script to include this pregnancy in the story. But George Clooney’s timely movie, which wrapped production before the shutdown, had to find a new venue…Netflix.
I would suggest that you ignore the naysayers and watch the film for yourself. Maybe, after we have all received our Covid vaccinations…and if another pandemic doesn’t strike before we feel safe to remove our masks…we can once again return to the movie theatres. Because…as much as I’m enjoying watching movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime…it just ain’t the same. Wear the damn mask!