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Review: Clooney's 'The Midnight Sky' a cold, alienating experience

George Clooney directs and stars in this story about a post-apocalyptic Earth

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's lonely out there — in space, on Earth after a global disaster and in "The Midnight Sky," a solemn, snail-paced sci-fi drama from director-star George Clooney. 

"Gravity" it's not. That heart-racing action epic (also starring Clooney) explored similar themes of isolation and finding the will to live in the face of surefire death. "The Midnight Sky" is a much more dour, downturned film, and while it may fancy itself headier or more cerebral, in reality it's an emotionally obtuse and disconnected experience.   

George Clooney in "The Midnight Sky."

Clooney is Augustine Lofthouse, a scientist in the Arctic Circle following a catastrophe referred to only as "The Event" which more or less ended life on Earth. Augustine, fighting a losing battle with cancer, is all alone, until he finds a little girl (Caoilinn Springall) whose existence represents hope and whose behavior (she doesn't speak) points to her being more of a metaphor than an actual flesh-and-blood character. 

Up in space, a group of astronauts — Felicity Jones' Sully, David Oyelowo's Adewole and Kyle Chandler's Mitchell among them — search for a new home for humanity. Sully begins communicating with Augustine through remote transmissions and they form a connection, and it doesn't take a NASA scientist to see how the dots will be connected. 

As both a narrative exercise and as a global warming warning, "The Midnight Sky" — which is adapted from a novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton — is as stiff as a frozen body left out in the arctic cold. The characters, especially those in the space station, are so blank as to render anonymous, and Clooney's sullen Augustine doesn't fare much better. "The Midnight Sky" unfolds across several timelines, yet none of them register on a human or a basic storytelling level. It's like the apocalypse arrived and nobody bothered to put up a fight.

'The Midnight Sky'

GRADE: C-

Rated PG-13: for some bloody images and brief strong language

Running time: 118 minutes

On Netflix

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama