The story starts in the year 2049, a few weeks after “The Event,” some apocalyptic global disaster that kills pretty much all life on earth. Augustine (George Clooney) is a space scientist stationed in the Arctic. When all his colleagues are flown out, he stays behind. Maybe he realizes that everyone else dies anyway, and the Arctic is one of the last safe places in the world.
He is lonely, and he is ill. As he goes about his daily routine, he discovers that a little girl was left behind. This complicates matters for him. A cantankerous old man is not a good caretaker for a little girl who (for some reason) does not speak.
Parallel to the catastrophe on earth, mankind’s first interplanetary space mission just visited a formerly not discovered moon of Jupiter, called K23. It is, due to internal heating, suitable for human habitation. The crew is now on its way back, approaching earth. Augustine knows that and tries to contact them to warn them about the disaster and encourage them not to come back.
The crew of the ship suffers severe damage from flying through a debris field and barely makes it back to earth. The situation is hopeless for the few people left on earth, and it’s just as hopeless for the space travelers who are weary and homesick after years in space and want nothing more than to go home. But that does not seem possible anymore.
The Midnight Sky is based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It apparently follows the book very closely (I have not read the book, but gathered this from reading some reviews). It’s an unlikely story, with an open end, or you might call it no end at all.
I enjoyed the depictions of the space ship, the way they generated artificial gravity, and how they moved about the vessel. There were some nice EVA (spacewalk) scenes, too. The damage to the ship by meteorites was done with pretty neat special effects, but the fact that the ship survived a hail of rocks and ice was very unlikely. Also, I understand that it’s not possible to show realistically what it would look like to get hit by pebbles in space traveling 20,000 to 30,000 miles per hour. Just putting that into perspective, a bullet shot from a rifle exits the barrel at 1,200 to 2,800 miles per hour, depending on the type of rifle. Can you see the bullet flying? You obviously could not see the rocks coming at you at more than 10 to 20 times the speed of a bullet. You would just be obliterated from one moment to the next. But that does not make for a good movie.
Overall, I found Midnight Sky to be a good story, but not one you absolutely have to go and see – unless you’re a space buff – then you have to.