Friday, December 25, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Midnight Sky

The Midnight Sky
Directed by George Clooney
Released December 23, 2020 (Netflix)

There are many theories that the human race is headed towards its own end, likely as a result of drastic climate change or some other extinction-level event. What science fiction stories like to posit is that such an eventuality means only the loss of Earth as a habitable planet and not the end of humanity as we know it. Deep-space exploration probes for a new place to rebuild and try for a second chance, bringing with it immense hope and unknown danger. At the point of no turning back, forging into mysterious territory beats the alternative of remaining in an unsustainable situation destined for doom.

In the year 2049, Augustine (George Clooney) stays behind at his Arctic Circle base when the rest of the facility is evacuated in the wake of devastating radiation that has reached and killed off most of the world’s population. He soon discovers that a young girl, Iris (Caoilinn Springall), has been left behind, and the two begin the treacherous journey to a faraway radar station so that they can attempt to contact the crew of a space mission sent to survey the planet K-23 as a possible new home for humanity. Aboard the ship, Sully (Felicity Jones), Adewole (David Oyelowo), Maya (Tiffany Boone), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler) struggle to maintain optimism as they receive nothing but radio silence from Earth and face unexpected challenges on their return path.

This is a return to space for Clooney following “Gravity,” and this time he’s working behind the camera as director in addition to his starring role. This is really two movies in one, chronicling Augustine’s desperate attempts to survive long enough to warn the crew of what awaits them back on Earth and the intrepid adventures of these astronauts in space. Both draw extensively on existing science-fiction films as clear influences, creating a toned-down version of something as grand and far-reaching as “Interstellar” with equally high stakes and harsh weather conditions.

While this film doesn’t necessarily introduce anything new in either its moderately predictable plot or its vision of a not-too-distant post-apocalyptic future, it does present a relatively involving and watchable story. A strongly-assembled cast ensures every role is worthwhile and relevant, while the sets and visuals serve to draw audiences in to the inescapable experiences, both in the arctic and in space. Those intimately familiar with other genre films may be less than satiated by this mediocre effort, but it’s one that works well enough and serves as a decently enthralling cinematic voyage into a future that might not be all that unlikely.


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