Title: Midnight Special
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher
Release Date: 21 April 2016
Review by Dave Griffiths
One of the quiet achievers in cinema over the past few years has been writer/director Jeff Nichols who has subtly announced himself as a filmmaker whose films deserve a watch when they hit cinemas. Nichols is yet to deliver a dud, his films to date – Mud, Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories – have all featured in my yearly Top Ten lists during the year of their release. When I heard his new film Midnight Special was to be a dark sci-fi starring two of my favourite actors, Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton, I was eagerly anticipating it the same way I was anything coming from Marvel and DC this year.
Midnight Special revolves around a determined father named Roy (Shannon – Man Of Steel) and his old friend, Lucas (Edgerton – The Gift), who are on the run from both a cult leader (Sam Shepherd – Mud) and a law enforcement team headed by a young special agent (Adam Driver – Star Wars: The Force Awakens) after snatching Roy’s son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberther – St. Vincent) from a cult who believes he is about to bring about the apocalypse. However getting Alton to where he believes he should be is made harder by the fact he can’t control his supernatural powers.
Watching Midnight Special is a real ride for the audience. The film begins like a regular car chase crime thriller but when Nichols brings in tropes from some of his 1980s sci-fi films it soon feels like a film like A.I. or E.T. with a hard edge that prevents it from ever becoming a traditional popcorn set film. Yet somehow Nichol has managed to combine what feels like it should be a family film with violent shootings and a mystery that just never lets up.
While Midnight Special will be enjoyed by those that enjoy their sci-fi a little left of centre you should also be warned that the film’s ending is going to leave you with more questions than answers which will be a tad frustrating if Nichols doesn’t visit this universe some other time… yes that is right I’m actually begging for a sequel to a film for once instead of complaining about one.
Brilliant performances from Shannon and Edgerton are only to be expected but what is surprising is that young Lieberther backs up his recent good performance in St. Vincent and shows why he is going to be a star of the future. Driver and Dunst also remind audiences that they are capable of decent performances as well when given meatier scripts to work with.
A little different then what most may expect but Midnight Special is sci-fi with a decent amount of edge.