The Midnight Sky reviews show that critics have been mixed on George Clooney’s latest movie. Many reviews praise the visual style and narrative potential, but the overall consensus suggests that the post-apocalyptic thriller misses the mark with its heavy-handed messages. Incidentally, The Midnight Sky loses some visceral impact because of the thick melodrama and obvious subtext.

In The Midnight Sky, Clooney stars as a terminally-ill man named Augustine Lofthouse. Three weeks after an apocalyptic event, the renowned scientist chooses to spend his final days at the Barbeau Observatory, and tries to communicate with U.S. astronauts aboard the vessel Aether. Two years prior, the five-person crew traveled to Jupiter to determine if life could be sustained at a moon called K-23. Since the mission was inspired by Augustine’s research, he feels obliged to warn the astronauts about the conditions on Earth during their trip home. Now streaming on Netflix, The Midnight Sky co-stars Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, and Kyle Chandler.


The Midnight Sky currently has a 53% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes (based on over 140 reviews), with the audience score being slightly lower at 41%. The major issue seems to be the storytelling approach, most notably the sentimental aspect that overrides the science fiction element. Most critics praise Clooney for his performance and visual style as a filmmaker, but some have been especially critical about the blatant foreshadowing, evidenced primarily through the appearance of a young girl, Iris (Caoilinn Springall), who reminds Augustine of the past. There’s initially a bit of mystery, but Clooney and screenwriter Mark L. Smith don’t trust the audience enough to pick up on the subtext. As a result, the ending could be viewed as predictable. Plus, the emphasis on Augustine’s past seemingly detracts from the space scenes, resulting in little character depth for each of the astronauts.

Los Angeles Times:

“The film’s themes of extinction and survival are worthy of thoughtful treatment, something that eludes the ambitious movie as it succumbs to a schematic and sentimental telling that overreaches for a grand gesture and obscures the more meaningful ideas.”

Time Out:

“The sleek sci-fi visuals occasionally elevate it, although more often it’s just a bit of a slog.”


“Clooney’s space drama looks lovely but lacks drama and tension.”

The Detroit News:

“‘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.”

Sydney Morning Herald:

“Visually it works… The Iceland scenes are so chilling that you emerge fearing frostbite. It’s the human factor that fails to persuade.”

In the long run, mixed reviews could be a good thing for The Midnight Sky. For example, one group of critics seem bored by the storytelling, while others have found value in the philosophical concepts. So, if the character subtext seems obvious midway through, perhaps Clooney and company are hoping that audiences will think deeper about the primary themes, and how the collective character experiences apply to life in 2020, or just in general. The Midnight Sky doesn’t pretend to be a heavy-duty science fiction movie, as it’s more of a psychological drama about grief, regret, and acceptance. The film arguably over-explains Augustine’s connection to certain characters, yet it’s the unresolved subplots that will ultimately spark discussions about the characters’ decisions, with Clooney leaving some visual clues during the climactic events (and even during the final credits).

Vanity Fair:

“The film’s conclusions are simple, but worthy of the drama: life carries on if it can, and thus ideally so does some sense of ourselves, whatever meager or profound contribution we made to the world – or beyond.”

Parade Magazine:

“It’s a lot, but Clooney ropes it all together, somehow, up there and down here, a big, bold fable about poisoned air, unlivable earth and undrinkable water, and the possibilities of the vast, unfathomable, unknowable future of space.”

The Washington Post:

“Slyly, and by misdirection that cleverly conceals its true intent until the poignant end, it reveals itself to be a story of regret over a lost opportunity for connection.”

ABC News:

“All the actors excel at helping director-star Clooney turn this apocalyptic thriller into something more thoughtful than sci-fi flashy, especially a redemptive note of hope that speaks with heartfelt relevance to these pandemic times.”

Chicago Tribune:

“This is easily Clooney’s finest hour behind the camera since “Good Night, and Good Luck” 15 years ago. And it’s one of his finest performances.”

The Midnight Sky likely won’t earn a cult following, but it may go down as a hidden gem of 2020, and certainly within Clooney’s filmography as a whole. It’s one of those movies that just may feel a little more poignant during a second watch, especially for viewers who can relate to the familial and romantic aspects. As a piece of mainstream 2020 entertainment, however, The Midnight Sky probably feels too heavy for audiences who expect some popcorn thrills and traditional conflict resolution.

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