Midnight Special is a modern day science fiction film with a very old school feel running through its veins. Jeff Nichols has made it no secret that classic sci-fi films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind are inspirations for his film however, I find the fact that his relationship with his own son was used as an inspiration too, much more intriguing.
Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is an eight-year-old boy who possesses otherworldly powers. When his father, Roy (Michael Shannon), takes his son and flees from a religious cult, they must travel across the country to an undisclosed location on a specific date, during which a celestial and possibly world-changing event may occur.
Mystery is a strong point for Midnight Special, the entire mystery surrounding Alton’s powers, what will happen on that specific date and the reason a religious cult want him back, all playing a part in making the story such a captivating one. Then comes the film’s climactic moment. We get answers, but they end up ruining some of the mystery that made what came before so good. Less is more definitely sprung to mind as it all unfolded.
The story, written by Jeff Nichols, is a very good one and at the heart of that story is a rather beautiful relationship between a father and son. It adds another layer to the film rather than it just being a standard story about people on the run, and as mentioned earlier, it really feels like a personal film from Nichols. Not saying that his son has special powers though, so don’t think that.
In a rather short directorial career, Nichols has made quite a name for himself and Midnight Special should further his reputation. It’s a very well made film but if there was one thing that stopped it from being great, it was the pacing. Unfortunately, this film dragged itself out through a few scenes and it really bugged me.
I cannot fault the film for its performances mind. Michael Shannon possesses such a magnetic screen presence, you just can’t take your eyes off him and Joel Edgerton certainly makes his presence felt, even if his role remains a little unexplained. Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver offer good support and Jaeden Lieberher is rather good as Alton.
It may be that, in time, I appreciate Midnight Special more however, my initial experience warrants me to say that it’s not the special film I was hoping for.