The Midnight Sky – Alexandre Desplat

French composer Alexandre Desplat is very sought-after in Hollywood, especially after winning two Oscars for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water. I own a handful of his soundtracks, but, to my surprise, I had not reviewed one of his scores yet. It is time to change that by looking at his music for the Netflix movie The Midnight Sky, which has been directed by Desplat’s friend George Clooney, making it their fourth movie collaboration.

Clooney also plays the main character, Augustine, a scientist who decides to stay behind in the arctic after an apocalyptic event destroyed the rest of the Earth in our near future. While he is there, he is trying to establish contact with a spaceship to convince its crew not to return to Earth. He thinks he is alone, but he quickly discovers that a little girl, called Iris, stayed behind as well. Together they have to go on a mission to save the spaceship. The story is not a happy one, and that is reflected in the music, as it has some wonderful melodies, but the score also consists of many sad and tense moments.

While most of the music is meant to be supportive with melodies, patterns and textures, tailored specifically to the scenes, Desplat has come up with a couple of themes as well. The first theme can be considered the main theme, which is a gorgeous emotional piece performed by a lot of strings, together with one French horn, in which melodies and countermelodies are blending together. It reflects the sadness, regrets and loneliness of Augustine perfectly. The first appearance of the theme is in the first track “The Midnight Sky,” but it can be heard in a couple of other places as well. At the end of “Crashed Plane,” the sudden start of the beautiful theme is quite a contrast, after a long period of unnerving sounds. In other tracks you can hear more hints of the theme hidden away in the rest of the music. “Evacuation” and “Wolves Attack” are good examples of these hints. 

Another important theme could be called the Iris theme, but it represents more the bond between Iris and Augustine than just the girl herself. The theme is an elegant melody on a piano, in which a repeating pattern of three notes stands out. The best versions can be heard in “Iris in The Stars” and “A Child.” In “Dead Birds” another hint of the theme is present and in “The Mission” the three-note pattern is surrounded by many synth sounds and a rhythm on an electric guitar. 

On the first half of the album, in addition to the beautiful sounds of the two themes, you can hear a blend of emotional, and sometimes uplifting tracks, together with darker music. One of the tracks that really stands out to me, is “Aether Spaceship” due to its pleasant uplifting melodies.  In the second half the music becomes darker and more unsettling. There are two frantic sounding action cues, which are “The Ice Breaks” and “Asteroids Rain”, with fast-paced music performed by the orchestra together with electronic sounds. There are also a lot of sad emotions to be heard in the second half. “Visuals on Earth” is a sort of orchestral lament for the dead planet. In “Survivors” and “There Is Nowhere,” the focus lies on a gorgeous cello solo, and after hearing death and sorrow in “Blood Drops” and “Mourning,” the album ends with two wonderful, and a bit more uplifting, orchestral pieces “A Ride Home” and “A New Life Ahead.”

Excluding his music for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I associate Alexandre Desplat with beautiful and joyful melodies. The Midnight Sky is definitely not that. When I listened to the soundtrack for the first time, I had the impression that, except for the main theme, I would not care much for it. It was only after seeing the movie and listening to the music, that I started to appreciate the soundtrack more. The music really helps to tell the story, on Earth, but also on the spaceship, and since Desplat does not really change how the score sounds for both locations, the music helps to link everything together. While this album contains some parts that are not pleasant to listen to, there are also other parts that are very enjoyable, especially when the two themes really stand out.

Listen or buy

Tracklist

The highlights are in bold.

  1. The Midnight Sky (3:31)
  2. Aether Spaceship (3:33)
  3. Mission (4:24)
  4. Sullivan’s Nightmare (2:09)
  5. Iris in the Stars (4:32)
  6. Augustine’s Redemption (2:54)
  7. Evacuation (2:48)
  8. Wolves Attack (2:06)
  9. Families & Friends (2:32)
  10. In the Milky Way (2:55)
  11. A Child (1:57)
  12. Peas Battle (3:22)
  13. First Alert (3:54)
  14. Dead Birds (1:10)
  15. Crashed Plane (5:22)
  16. The Ice Breaks (3:09)
  17. Visual on Earth (3:00)
  18. Survivors (3:11)
  19. Is There Hope? (7:43)
  20. Changing Route (3:55)
  21. Asteroids Rain (2:08)
  22. Blood Drops (5:33)
  23. Mourning (4:00)
  24. There Is Nowhere (2:13)
  25. A Ride Home (1:44)
  26. A New Life Ahead (3:03)

Total length: 1 hour and 26 minutes
ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. (2020)

Author

  • Anton is the editor-in-chief and founder of Soundtrack World. After writing about film music occasionally, he thought it was time to create his own site to celebrate music from film but also other media. Next to working on this website as a hobby Anton has a full-time job in IT and plays the tuba in a local orchestra.

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