Tuesday, January 5, 2021
REVIEW: The Midnight Sky
Still showing at Harkins Tucson while streaming on Netflix
George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Midnight Sky, has been taking a bit of a drubbing from the critics. Well, actually, it’s pulling about a 52% on the Rottentomatoes meter, so that’s right down the middle.
I’m going to come down on the positive side on this one. Clooney has always been a decent director, although he’s made a clunker or two. I loved his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and liked Good Night and Good Luck and The Ides of March. Not a huge fan of Leatherheads and Suburbicon. I felt he was riffing on his buddies the Coen Brothers a little too obviously.
The Midnight Sky is quite nice visually, well-acted by Clooney himself and, while a bit of a mishmash of films that have come before it, a generally absorbing apocalyptic science fiction thriller. Albeit, a slow-moving sci-fi thriller, much like the remake of Solaris he starred in (a vastly underrated film) with hints of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Hey, if you are going to borrow some elements, borrow from the good shit.
Clooney plays Augustine, a scientist left behind (on purpose) in an arctic atoll after an unexplained (but hinted nuclear) planet killing event. As one of few survivors on the planet, he starts scanning the stars for any interplanetary missions that might be unaware of the conditions of Earth. He finds one, a mission to a Jupiter moon headed by a crew consisting of Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo and Kyle Chandler. They are heading back to Earth and have no idea what has happened.
Augustine tries desperately to communicate with the mission while tending to a child (Caoilinn Springall) accidentally left behind at the facility. Their scenes together are cute, and their journey through the Arctic tundra to a working satellite dish has some tense moments (including a wolf attack and some breaking ice).
The movie moves at a deliberate, slow pace, and that’s generally a no-no in our fast moving, let’s-get-on-with-it society. The pace and tone work here because, hey, it’s two generally quiet people surviving in the south pole with little chance for sparky dialogue. With that, Clooney manages to make the situation interesting, his performance anchors his film, and it’s a quality looking movie.
Not Clooney’s best work, but far from his worst, and worth a look if you are a sci-fi loving streamer looking for a decent two hours of moviemaking.
Streaming on Disney+
Another big blockbuster that went straight to streaming, Pixar offers up a typically solid work involving a music teacher (Jamie Foxx) who wanted to be a professional musician meeting an untimely death and having a strange, ghostly adventure involving body possession and cats.
If it sounds morbid and dark, it isn’t. Pixar handles the subject of death well with their sweet fantasy that winds up being a tasteful and touching ode to music and, above all, teachers. The story leans a little bit to the more adult fare side of Pixar films, but maybe the kids will walk away with some new questions about music, teachers and, yeah, mortality. Hey, kids learn about death at some point, and this is a movie that addresses the death reality in a tasteful and intelligent way.
The film is beautifully put together, with one of the year’s best soundtracks from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Yes, the guy from Nine Inch Nails has scored a Pixar movie, and it’s a soundtrack that is noticeably terrific without distracting from the movie. Their work makes the heartwarming moments even warmer.