Netflix's The Midnight Sky is a sci-fi drama about the end of the world that may not seem like a great Christmas movie, but audiences have collectively proven otherwise. Directed by and starring George Clooney, the movie shows a race against time to stop a space exploration crew from returning to Earth because of the apocalyptic conditions there.
There are a lot of twists toward the end of the movie, but one of the biggest mysteries it leaves unanswered is what the event was that precipitated the end of the world in the first place. Exactly what happened to Earth in The Midnight Sky?
Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about this end-of-the-world drama…
What happens in 'The Midnight Sky'?
The Midnight Sky is set in the year 2049, three weeks after “the event.” The movie begins with a cataclysmic event that wreaks havoc on the planet and a group of scientists fleeing an Antarctic research outpost to be with their families for their final moments.
But while everyone else leaves, George Clooney's Augustine Lofthouse decides to remain behind so that he can contact the spaceship Aether, which is set to return to Earth after a research mission to find more habitable planets.
As he’s trying to connect with Aether, Augustine also finds an orphaned child at the research facility. Although she doesn’t speak and Augustine doesn’t know where she came from, he decides to bring her on his mission across the Antarctic to find another facility, from where he believes he will be able to contact Aether's crew.
What happened to Earth in 'The Midnight Sky'?
Audiences never really find out exactly what “the event” that brings on the end of the world is in The Midnight Sky. At the beginning of the movie, viewers see a map with multiple red circles that suggest multiple hot spots of the event all around the world. But what these expanding circles actually stand for is unclear.
Augustine is also seen monitoring the Air Quality Index and rising radiation levels in the area around the observatory. It becomes evident that this is a worldwide event when aboard the Aether, Sully, played by Felicity Jones, says that she’s tried contacting multiple countries including China, Russia, Australia, and India.
Later on, during Augustine’s first contact with Aether, he explains to Sully, “I don't know all the details, it started with a mistake…” This also suggests that “the event” was a man-made error and not a natural disaster.
During a later conversation with the crew aboard Aether, Augustine is able to transmit some images of the destroyed planet. The crew sees an Earth covered with brown smoke and there are mushroom cloud-like formations coming off the surface of the planet.
It is at this point that the crew aboard Aether grasps the total destruction that’s been wrecked upon Earth. They ask Augustine if there are any safe entry points for their spaceship to return to Earth, but Augustine tells them that all the inhabitable areas are underground and that even these are temporary shelters.
In the book Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, on which The Midnight Sky is based, the author also leaves “the event” as a mystery. But while audiences may never know exactly what happened to Earth in The Midnight Sky, it is clearly something irreversible and something that meant the extinction of human life.
The Midnight Sky is available to stream on Netflix.