Film Critic

Chuck Koplinski is The News-Gazette's film critic. His email is and you can follow him on Twitter (@ckoplinski).


George Clooney and Caoilinn Springall star in ‘The Midnight Sky’ (2020).

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If you’re expecting high adventure from George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky,” you’re likely to be disappointed.

Though an end-of-the-world scenario is its basis and a space tragedy akin to the disaster that occurred in “Gravity” takes place, the film is far more contemplative in nature, a character study about a haunted man striving for redemption while facing his own mortality.

Grandly produced and replete with timely themes, this adaptation of Lili Brooks-Dalton’s novel “Good Morning Midnight” is a film that features a veteran cast delivering solid performances, the highest of production values and a premise with a plethora of potentially dramatic moments.

And yet, far too often, it just sits there. For a race-against-the-clock movie, there’s a curious lack of urgency, while the languid pace, coupled with a bloated screenplay, ultimately makes for a frustrating experience.

Eerily quiet, the film’s opening introduces us to Barbeau Observatory in the Arctic Circle. It’s 2049, and a catastrophe has occurred that will eventually wipe out all human life on Earth.

In flashback, we witness the station being evacuated by all except Dr. Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), who’s suffering from a terminal illness.

With no home to return to, he’s decided to spend the rest of his days alone … that is, until he finds Iris (Caoilinn Springall), a 7-year-old girl who’s been left behind.

And while this knocks him back on his heels, his discovery that there’s a spaceship headed back to Earth after a three-year journey, unaware that it’s now uninhabitable, puts him in a panic.

Unable to warn them via the antenna at his disposal, Lofthouse and his young charge set off on a treacherous journey to another outpost with a more powerful signal.

Clooney cuts back and forth between the pair dealing with brutal weather, vicious predators and unexpected setbacks, and the five-person crew of the Aether, who are concerned that none of their transmissions to Earth are being returned.

Gordon (David Oyelowo), who commands the ship, is having a child with the science officer, Sully (Felicity Jones), while Maya (Tiffany Boone), Sanchez (Demian Bichir) and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler) are all experts in their respective fields.

The film is never less than visually captivating, the special effects of the highest quality, while the Icelandic locations prove beautiful and threatening.

And while Clooney must be commended for adhering to a contemplative tone throughout, the movie suffers for it.

Though the focus is on the theme of redemption, a degree of tension or excitement should be present as well, what with the dire circumstances that take place.

Three of the Aether crew members are pelted with debris while repairing the ship, while Lofthouse and Iris have to contend with raging storms, a wolf pack and a melting ice floe on their journey.

Yet most of these moments are rendered in a flat, pedestrian manner, a sense of excitement that’s vital to our remaining engaged missing.

Equally troubling is that the majority of these scenes are unnecessary, many of them failing to advance the plot or offer any insights into the characters.

To be sure, “Sky” has the best of intentions and couldn’t be more timely in regard to its scenario and message of hope, which we so vitally need.

Yet, in the end, this is a dour exercise, one that flirts with tedium throughout instead of providing inspiration.

And while the film’s final revelation is a genuine stunner, its impact is dulled.

“Midnight Sky” longs to move us, but Clooney never truly earns the tears he wants us to shed.

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