Midnight Special – Film Review
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst
Michael Shannon plays Roy, a man trying to do his best for his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). They have gone on the run as government forces have found out about Alton. He is not like other boys. He has unique powers which are starting to grow. We meet Roy and Alton in a hotel room with the news playing on the TV in the background. The reporter on the TV says that Roy has kidnapped the child and that there is a manhunt in progress for his arrest. After a few moments, they bring Alton to the car and their trip continues to an unspecified destination.
If this all sounds quite serious, it probably is. The film is a road chase with elements of sci-fi thrown into the mix while never over powering the story. It has been compared to ET but it would have been a very different film in Spielberg’s hands. There is not much in the way of levity and you never really care about the child, as his character is not developed.
The performances are the main point of interest, with Shannon impressing as ever. He is starting to make carve out an interesting niche for himself in Hollywood. Watch out Willem Dafoe, there’s a new kid in town! Adam Driver does well also but will struggle to park the Star Wars related baggage of Kylo Ren. Mark Hamill never managed it but Driver should succeed over time. He is helped by having had a career before Star Wars with roles in Inside Llewyn Davis and While We Were Young among others. Dunst and Edgerton are less impressive, keeping their furrowed brows and thousand yard stares throughout.
In many ways, this film is closer to Nichols’ previous film ‘Give Shelter’ than his most recent ‘Mud’. ‘Give Shelter’ was a film with a huge amount of build up to the triumphant ending. This is a chase film which again sets up a grand finale. When the ending arrives it works relatively well but there is so much weight of expectation heaped upon it that it was almost impossible it could ever be worth the wait. This is still a cut above the average thriller and the sci-fi element works well, it just never quite sparkled as it promised to.