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The Midnight Sky

Since his directorial debut with 2002’s ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’, actor George Clooney has helmed a film every three years. His acting gigs between directing movies seem to influence his creativity as he’s developed a consistently solid library of work. ‘Good Night and Good Luck’, ‘The Monuments Men’ among others have shown his interest in exploring fractured characters in unusual situations. Based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s science fiction novel, ‘The Midnight Sky’ adds another interesting layer to Clooney’s stellar filmography.

Based in the Arctic, Augustine (George Clooney) is a lonely scientist working amongst the Arctics’ endless white expanse. Alone on earth, he tries to warn interstellar travellers of earth’s environmental collapse. This takes a more urgent tone when a group of astronauts, including Sally (Felicity Jones), Tom (David Oyelowo) and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), are due to return home. Utilising all his skills to stop them, Augustine’s insular existence quickly reaches levels of major importance.

‘The Midnight Sky’ is an interesting sci-fi drama filled with Clooney’s usual visual flourishes. He knows how to tell a story with striking visuals, adding much to a character’s mindset. ‘The Midnight Sky’ is filled with startling imagery mixed with a generally involving story. As an actor himself, Clooney knows how to draw out good performances with his cast making the thin material stronger than it is.

Where ‘The Midnight Sky’ falls down somewhat is in its characters. Whilst you understand their actions, most appear as being cold and aloof. This has befallen other Clooney-directed projects. He doesn’t seem to yet have the ability to fully master emotionally-driven characters, although he gets better with subsequent films. There’s enough to maintain interest despite an abrupt conclusion.

Even a lesser Clooney directed movie is still interesting. ‘The Midnight Sky’ effectively showcases his skills although there are still areas he needs to improve upon. It will be intriguing to see what he does next with his story choices offering a variety of topics any budding director should go for.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX

The New Mutants

Twenty years after the first ‘X-Men’ movie burst onto screens, comes the last instalment in the franchise ‘The New Mutants’. Based on a popular Marvel comic beginning in the early 1980’s, ‘The New Mutants’ gained its own followers as it successfully charted its unique course in the series. The long delayed film version, while not great, gives it a good go in offering a coda in a film series reaching its temporary conclusion.

Five young mutants, including Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), are held captive in a secret facility. Although mentored by the facility’s Doctor Reyes (Alice Braga), the group are desperate to flee. Fighting to escape past mistakes and forge new futures, the team learn to use their special abilities to become the heroes they were born to be.

Directed by Josh Boone, ‘The New Mutants’ is a darker and more personal entry in the ‘X-Men’ franchise. There’s less saving the world and more saving themselves as the group try to overcome their fears. It’s like a teenage-angst story with the young mutant’s developing powers reflecting their growing maturity. This makes for an interesting instalment, free of the overblown excess of other films.

The cast do a fair job with their sketchily written characters. Williams succeeds the best with Wolfsbane exactly as seen from the comics. The mix of horror, drama and action is competently handled without being amazing. The excitement levels come in occasional spurts with the low key atmosphere and small ensemble working despite this lack of consistent incident.

‘The New Mutants’ is decent which is about the highest compliment one could give. It’s engaging without being too boring. As the grand finale to the 20th Century Fox ‘X-Men’ series, it may surprise fans expecting a huge blow-out. It provides a way forward for the new film owners, Disney, to create their own mutant-led tales with what comes next full of intriguing possibilities.

Rating out of 10: 6

CURRENTLY SHOWING IN CINEMAS.