The Midnight Sky

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The Midnight Sky
The Midnight Sky poster.png
Official release poster
Directed byGeorge Clooney
Screenplay byMark L. Smith
Based onGood Morning, Midnight
by Lily Brooks-Dalton
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyMartin Ruhe
Edited byStephen Mirrione
Music byAlexandre Desplat
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • December 11, 2020 (2020-12-11)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$100 million[1]
Box office$3 million

The Midnight Sky is a 2020 American science fiction film directed by George Clooney, based on the 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It stars Clooney as a scientist who must venture through the Arctic Circle to warn off a returning spaceship following a global catastrophe. Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, Kyle Chandler, and Caoilinn Springall also star.

The Midnight Sky began a limited theatrical release on December 11, 2020, before being released on Netflix on December 23. It received mixed reviews from critics, but was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review.[2] At the 93rd Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects, but lost to Tenet.[3]

Plot[edit]

Scientist Augustine Lofthouse has devoted his life work to finding habitable planets where humanity can expand. He meets Jean Sullivan after giving a presentation at a gala and the two form a romantic relationship. After a pregnancy scare, Jean leaves him because of his obsession with work and inability to bond with other human beings. Several years later, Lofthouse encounters her again and she tells him that they have a daughter, whom he chooses not to meet.

Thirty years later, in 2049, an unspecified disaster has wiped out most of the Earth's population and left the surface contaminated with ionizing radiation. Lofthouse refuses to join the evacuation of his Arctic base, knowing he does not have long to live due to an unidentified serious illness requiring hemodialysis. He searches the base's computer system for active crewed space missions to warn about the situation on Earth, and finds only one: the interplanetary craft Aether, returning from an exploration of Jupiter's habitable moon K-23, which Lofthouse discovered. The crew has lost contact with Earth but does not know why. Lofthouse finds his antenna is too weak to contact them.

He finds he is experiencing mental blackouts. After a kitchen fire, he finds a young girl hiding who does not speak. He tries to contact the other evacuees to get someone to pick her up, but they are all out of range or are already dead. The girl communicates by drawing and tells him her name is Iris. He grows fond of her and takes her with him on a snowmobile to another base farther north, which has a larger, more powerful antenna. He loses his dialysis equipment, condemning him to die soon. Arriving at the base, he manages to make contact with Aether, but the crew is interrupted by an asteroid field that damages the ship's radar and communication systems.

To repair the damage, pregnant mission specialist Sully and her partner, Commander Adewole, conduct a spacewalk with their flight engineer Maya. They repair the communications and radar but are caught in the middle of a second asteroid strike that fatally injures Maya. Sully reaches out to Lofthouse, who tells her not to return to Earth, but go back to K-23 and start a new life there. Aether's pilot, Tom Mitchell, refuses, but upon discovering his wife's final words and seeing the state of Earth's atmosphere, he understands that it is in the crew's best interests to go back to Jupiter's moon. Still, he decides to use one of the two re-entry vehicles to go back to Earth, hoping to find his family who may have been evacuated to temporary safety. Sanchez, who saw Maya as a second daughter, decides to accompany him and bury her body.

In her final communication, Sully tells Lofthouse that he was one of the reasons why she joined NASA. She thanks him, telling him her mother Jean knew him, as he had given her a moon rock, and that her full name is Iris Sullivan. Lofthouse says he already knew her name, making it clear that the young Iris he saw was a hallucination. When asked how he ended up at the base from which he contacted Aether, he says he thought he might be able to help someone, hinting that the reason that he kept track of Aether's mission was not just because he discovered the moon to which it went, but also because he knew Sully was his daughter and that she was a part of that mission. Before heading out into the cold unprotected to die, Lofthouse tells Sully he is proud to have finally met her and Sully describes K-23 to him. Sully and Adewole are left to return to K-23 using a course provided to them by Lofthouse to give humanity a second start.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was announced in June 2019, with George Clooney directing and starring. Netflix would distribute, with filming set to begin in October.[4] Felicity Jones was added to the cast in July.[5] Jones became pregnant sometime after having been cast. Clooney opted to rewrite her character as pregnant versus using a body double.[6][7] Kyle Chandler and David Oyelowo joined the cast in August.[8][9] Tiffany Boone and Caoilinn Springall were added in October.[10] In November 2019, Demián Bichir joined the cast of the film.[11] Sophie Rundle, Ethan Peck, Tim Russ and Miriam Shor were announced as being added in January 2020.[12]

Filming began on October 21, 2019 in England, and wrapped in Iceland on February 7, 2020.[13][14] The scene that takes place in a blizzard was filmed in 50-mile-per-hour (80 km/h) winds with temperatures at 40 °F below zero (–40 °C). Some shooting also took place at La Palma, in the Canary Islands.[15] For his role, Clooney lost 25 pounds (~11.5 kg).[1] Scenes set on Earth and involving Clooney were shot before the end of 2019, while scenes set in space were shot after the production's Christmas break.[6]

The film was shot with Arri Alexa 65 cameras (the digital equivalent of 65mm film) with the intent of screening it in IMAX theatres. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this never occurred.

Release[edit]

The film had a limited theatrical release on December 11, 2020, and was released digitally on December 23.[16][17] It was the most-watched film on Netflix over its first five days.[18] The film remained in the top 10 for its first 12 days of release. Netflix later revealed that the film was seen by 72 million households during its first week.[19] In March 2021, Variety reported the film was the most-watched among Netflix's Oscar-nominated titles, and assigned it an "audience appeal score" of 98 out 100.[20]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In the Netherlands, the film ranked 17th in its first weekend, grossing $22,070 from 14 theaters with an average of $1,576 per theater. In South Korea, the film opened 4th, grossing $24,608 from 218 theaters with an average of $112 per screen.[21]

Critical response[edit]

The Midnight Sky received some praise for its "ambition and emotional tone," though was compared unfavorably to other science fiction films.[22] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 50% of 244 reviews of the film were positive, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website's critics consensus states, "The Midnight Sky lacks the dramatic heft to match its narrative scale, but its flaws are often balanced by thoughtful themes and a poignant performance from director-star George Clooney."[23] According to Metacritic, which sampled 42 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, the film received "mixed or average reviews".[24]

Alonso Duralde of TheWrap wrote "There's a lot that's frustrating about George Clooney's new film The Midnight Sky, from its egregious borrowing from any number of better movies to its pacing issues, but thanks to a few grace notes, its shortcomings are mostly forgivable."[25] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B and described it as "a dystopian drama whose fluctuating tone—grim, with flickers of hopeful sentiment—feels almost comfortingly familiar, if a little on the nose for 2020."[26]

The Wall Street Journal reviewer Joe Morganstern gave the film a warm review, but added: "The film isn't perfect. The narrative piles crisis upon crisis, from a fat fire in the observatory kitchen to spectacular repair efforts in space and a startling sequence that involves droplets of blood. The pace, paradoxically, can be awfully slow, but it may seem less so to home viewers with plenty of time and patience; the metabolic rate of motion pictures will be changing in the streaming era, to an extent we can't foresee."[27] Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com reviewed the film more harshly and gave it two stars, concluding, "The heart of this movie just isn't there. It's as weightless as space."[28]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Hollywood Music in Media Awards January 27, 2021 Best Original Score in a Feature Film Alexandre Desplat Nominated [29]
Satellite Awards February 15, 2021 Best Art Direction and Production Design Jim Bissell and John Bush Nominated [30]
Best Cinematography Martin Ruhe Nominated
Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Won
Best Sound (Mixing and Editing) Randy Thom, Dan Hiland, Todd Beckett, Danny Hambrook & Bjorn Schroeder Nominated
Best Visual Effects Mark Bakowski, Georgina Street and Jill Brooks Nominated
Golden Globe Awards February 28, 2021 Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated [31]
Hollywood Critics Association Awards March 5, 2021 Best Cinematography Martin Ruhe Nominated [32]
Best Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Visual Effects Matt Kasmir, Chris Lawrence, Dave Watkins, and Max Solomon Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards March 7, 2021 Best Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated [33]
Best Young Actress Caoilinn Springall Nominated
Best Visual Effects Mark Bakowski, Georgina Street and Jill Brooks Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association March 19, 2021 Best Motion Capture/Special Effects Performance Matt Kasmir Nominated [34]
Set Decorators Society of America Awards March 31, 2021 Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Science Fiction or Fantasy Feature Film John Bush and Jim Bissell Nominated [35]
Visual Effects Society Awards April 6, 2021 Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature Matt Kasmir, Greg Baxter, Chris Lawrence, Max Solomon, Dave Watkins Won [36][37]
Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project Michael Balthazart, Jonathan Opgenhaffen, John-Peter Li, Simon Aluze (for Aether) Won
Art Directors Guild Awards April 10, 2021 Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Film Jim Bissell Nominated [38]
British Academy Film Awards April 11, 2021 Best Special Visual Effects Matt Kasmir, Chris Lawrence and David Watkins Nominated [39]
Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards April 16, 2021 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Sound Effects and Foley for Feature Film Bjørn Schroeder, Randy Thom, Kyrsten Mate, Leff Lefferts, Nicholas Docter, Shelley Roden and John Roesch Nominated [40]
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Underscore Michael Alexander and Peter Clarke Nominated
Academy Awards April 25, 2021 Best Visual Effects Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon, and David Watkins Nominated [41]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]