If you only know George Clooney from his days as ER‘s resident heartthrob or his swaggering turn as heistmaster Danny Ocean, you may not recognize him when The Midnight Sky begins. In order to play Augustine, who's undergoing treatment for a terminal disease, Clooney lost 25 pounds. His famous face is hidden under a long, bushy beard. Unlike Clooney's most famous characters, Augustine isn't charming or funny. He's cantankerous, he rarely smiles, and he never laughs. In other words? In The Midnight Sky, Clooney looks old.
That's by design. After all, Clooney himself is pushing 60. As he tells Deadline, “It's where I'm headed. I can't stop it. If I could avoid it I'd like to look like I did in the Out of Sight years, but you can't stop the clock.” And so, for The Midnight Sky, the actor embraced his age. Throughout The Midnight Sky, you can almost see the years weighing Augustine down.
Just listen to the way that Augustine wistfully describes the woman he once knew, and how fondly he recalls both her strengths and her flaws. These aren't the mutterings of a young man. They're the wistful remembrances of an older person who's recalling past days, when things were better. They're the words of someone who ended up alone, and who still wonders what could've been.
Augustine's monologue, however, is also tinged with wisdom. He knows that he can't change the past, and despite his regrets, has ultimately accepted his lot in life. You can see that kind of earned knowledge in Clooney's performance, and you can see it in his directing, too.
Compared to the madcap energy of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind or Good Night, and Good Luck‘s striking black-and-white cinematography, The Midnight Sky never calls attention to itself. This scene only has a couple of cuts. It's mostly just two people sitting across from each other, separated by the glow of a stray flashlight. It's confident without being showy, and is the kind of thing that only a director with age and experience can pull off. As we've seen, Clooney has plenty of both.