The Midnight Sky is about the end of the world. It’s about a man who is dying. It is about saving the last of humanity, at least for one more generation.
There are two stories taking places in this film, both in the harshest environments. We follow Augustine (George Clooney) in the North Pole and Sully (Felicity Jones) and the crew of the Aether on return from a fictional moon of Jupiter that can support human life on its surface. I was surprised at how much time The Midnight Sky spent in space— I thought I was watching a movie about George Clooney versus the elements, his terminal illness, and his loneliness. But this movie was also about the crew of the Aether, their battle against the elements and their loneliness (and uncertainty, with all contact from Earth suddenly ceasing). They serve as coequal story arcs, with an unsurprising connection.
I think The Midnight Sky is weakest when it resorts to trite story elements, like an early sequence where Sully is terrified by events that turn out to be a dream. There are flashbacks to Augustine’s early career (mercifully casting a different actor for the role rather than using de-aging effects) that feel unnecessary.
But although this movie moves through well-trodden ground, it does so adeptly and beautifully. Pacing, acting, and visual effects are superb. What it lacks is that extra bit of emotional resonance that would have made it feel marvelous, even if it used some old tricks.