Director: Jeff Nichols
Thursdays just seem to strike lucky for me at the cinema. Midnight Special is probably the film I have enjoyed the most, so far, this year.
In our story we have Alton Meyer (Lieberher), a young boy like no other on the planet but nobody knows exactly why. Sleeps by day and stays out of the daylight. Well, if he is in the daylight, it’s not without his swimming goggles. People who have moved in Alton’s circles have been witness to incredible sensations, lights and visions.
At the outset of the film Alton appears to have been abducted from a “community” ranch and from his adoptive Father by his actual Father, Roy Tomlin (Shannon) formerly a member of said community. Partnered by his childhood friend Lucas (Edgerton), Tomlin takes Alton on a road trip with a destination plotted out by the young boy. This is no abduction, it’s clear that both men have the child’s best interests at the forefront of their plans. They collect Alton’s Mother, Sarah (Dunst), and head off to Alton’s final destination.
The FBI and NSA specialist Paul Sevier played by Adam Driver are in pursuit after a number of strange occurrences are linked to the boys abilities, most recently the crashing of a satellite used to detect nuclear missile launches. This is the first time I’ve seen Driver outside of Kylo Ren and more importantly since his secret employee parody on Saturday Night Live. He’s very enjoyable here, very likeable without overdoing the eccentricity. It’s just very hard to take him seriously after that SNL sketch! Also on their trail are two members of the community from which Tomlin “abducts” the boy. I’m sure, by now, you will have gathered that the community is basically a cult. This cult believes the boy is some sort of celestial being and has been sent as their savour.
What made the film really work for me was that it felt like a sci-fi tale from the eighties, it constantly felt like a John Carpenter film. This was, in no small part, due to the score. A simple repetitive theme, reminiscent of many a Carpenter movie. Visually I felt like I was experiencing Starman again particularly due to the genuine bond that existed between the four passengers particularly as they came to terms with what possible eventualities awaited them at journey’s end. If a film actually makes the hairs on your neck stand up as it crescendos then it has achieved its goal. It doesn’t even have to use special effects to any overwhelming standards, it keeps it very simple.
It’s uplifting without feeling like a power ballad, a warm and a very well told story. Performances from everyone are of the highest standard but Shannon and Dunst are the standout adults. As Lucas remarks at one point, they’d have made a real nice family. The real trick here was casting Lieberher. It could have easily gone very wrong but he is instantly likeable and not the annoying child that so often darkens the screen and leaves viewers just wanting to strangle him.
I have but two issues which I can’t ask without spoiling, one seems to be a link in events that I’ve missed or just isn’t there. The second is quite what is the final scene is meant to depict.
A marvellous, well thought out film. Atmospheric and absorbing it brings you in gives you a glimpse of something incredible; the bond of a family and the possibilities of alternative worlds and life forms.
Rating: 4/5 Stars