The Midnight Sky
Cert: 12A, 2hrs 2mins Out now in cinemas, Netflix from December 23
Cert: 15, 1hr 30mins Out now in cinemas and on Amazon Prime
I’m Your Woman
Cert: 15, 2hrs Out now in cinemas and on demand
George Clooney likes a bit of science fiction. He starred in Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Solaris, provided Sandra Bullock’s only real company in Gravity, and can’t be blamed for the fantastical Tomorrowland not quite hitting the spot.
Now he’s at it again, not just as the star but also making one of his occasional outings as director, in The Midnight Sky. It shares some similarities with both Solaris and Gravity, and suffers slightly from that familiar film failing of one setback relentlessly following another, but is powerfully rescued by its topicality.
The Midnight Sky, you see, is about the end of the world.
Much of what ensues takes place on the spaceship, perhaps to justify a classy cast of astronauts that includes Felicity Jones (above), David Oyelowo and Kyle Chandler
This time, it’s not a pandemic that wipes out humanity but a nuclear disaster which, in 2049, is slowly spreading fatal levels of radiation across the globe. There is no escape.
So at a remote Arctic observatory, the brave staff are being evacuated so they can die at home.
The only exception is Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), a grizzled space scientist who’s not going home because he’s dying anyway. He stays behind, stalking the deserted corridors, reheating cafeteria food and alternately self-medicating with whisky and blood transfusions.
So at a remote Arctic observatory, the brave staff are being evacuated so they can die at home. The only exception is Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney, above)
Until one day he makes two discoveries – first that he is not alone: a small, frightened girl (beautifully played by Caoilinn Springall) has been left behind.
His second discovery is that a manned expedition to a newly discovered Jupiter moon – capable of sustaining human life – is returning to Earth and should be in communication range in about 12 hours.
If he can just warn them, humanity might have a chance after all.
Much of what ensues takes place on the spaceship, perhaps to justify a classy cast of astronauts that includes Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo and Kyle Chandler. Meanwhile, Clooney and Springall are racing across the Arctic in search of better comms.
Storywise, we’re definitely on familiar territory, but topicality and Clooney’s thoughtful direction definitely lift it a notch or two.
Songbird is even more topical in that it’s set in 2024, when the Covid-23 virus has fatally mutated, killing tens of millions of people around the world. In downtown Los Angeles, military law has been imposed and the only people on the streets are the masked-up military, or the immune, identified by yellow bracelets.
Inside, the rest of the population cowers in endless lockdown, required to take an online temperature check every morning, and living in fear of being carted off to the dreaded ‘Q-Zones’ if they fail.
It’s a promising, well-constructed premise but the end result suffers from being hastily written and shot during this year’s pandemic, and despite the presence of Demi Moore and Bradley Whitford, has a low-budget feel and a storyline that never quite grips.
Rachel Brosnahan is quite brilliant in the TV show The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, but she’s versatile too, as she proves here in I’m Your Woman, delivering a very different but rather good performance as a gangster’s wife whose life is plunged into chaos when her husband disappears.
Rachel Brosnahan (above) delivers a very different but rather good performance as a gangster’s wife whose life is plunged into chaos when her husband disappears
Suddenly, she’s on the run, accompanied by a crying baby and one of her husband’s accomplices.
Directed and co-written by Julia Hart, the film has an initially slow pace but definitely brings a fresh perspective – that of an exhausted, confused mother – to a familiar genre. And if Brosnahan is good, the baby acting is even better.