The dark mission control rooms and deserted space waystations in "The Midnight Sky" look awfully familiar.
Having apparently borrowed Donald Sutherland's eyebrows, George Clooney stars in and directs a science-fiction drama that doesn't have much new to offer until late-breaking developments I won't spoil but that you'll probably guess. There's a resemblance to previous Clooney movies "Gravity" and "Solaris," and to lots of other vaguely metaphysical dramas that use outer space as a crucible in which to boil down the idea that the human spirit triumphs when faced with impossible odds.
As the movie begins, Augustine (Clooney) is in an Arctic lab that's being evacuated because of the sort of global catastrophe it seems the movies bring us every week. Augustine is dying, so he remains while a bunch of astronauts depart, accidentally leaving behind an uncommunicative child (Caoilinn Springall).
He spends the movie trying to bond with her while also communicating with astronauts (including Felicity Jones and David Oyelowo) about dangers they face as they search for a new place to support human life.
"The Midnight Sky" is really two movies, and that's its chief problem. The stuff with Clooney and the kid is engaging, her gravity nicely balanced by his playfulness. The Oscar-winning Clooney, a recent father in real life, has genuine rapport with her.
The other half of the movie, though, is a bore. The conversations between Augustine and his colleagues take place over the phone, essentially, which makes it difficult to establish any energy with Clooney (kind of like in a bad Zoom meeting), and the stuff happening on the spaceship is dull because we know so little about the people.
Actually, there's a third piece of the puzzle: Flashbacks depict a younger Augustine, played by Ethan Peck, using an effects-blended version of his and Clooney's voices. The dubbing isn't great — it never is — and Peck mostly proves how much the movie misses Clooney, of whom there is only one.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367
The Midnight Sky
2 out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for violence and language.