Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special (film) poster.jpg
Shine On, You Crazy Meyer

Director: Jeff Nichols
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, Jaedan Lieberher

Roy (Michael Shannon) goes on the run with his son, Alton Meyer (Jaedan Lieberher), and childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). The government and a cult pursue them, drawn to Alton's otherwordly powers.

While it's nice to see the usual fare we're accustomed to in cinema, films which embrace deviating from the norm are always welcome. In this era of cinematic superheroism, a grounded approach is an intriguing way to tackle the material, bringing to mind the likes of Unbreakable and Chronicle.

But where the grounded approach of those films managed to compliment the tales of otherwordly powers, Jeff Nichols can only keep that momentum going for so long. The adventure works well from the beginning, but when it reaches the finale, it feels taken from something different than what we've borne witness to. In that sense, it feels a tad disappointing.

A refreshing tactic utilized is to allow the films mysteries to be unpacked in their own time. Rather than spelling out the plot from the word go, Jeff Nichols keeps his cards close to his chest. This choice leaves some items ambiguous, which may not satisfy all, but works extremely well in the context of the story. However, the story feel to lack a drive or forward momentum, as things plod along while the characters travel from one destination to the next. There's also the inclusion of any action or car chases, which feel perfunctory rather than a natural part of the tale.

At the heart of this tale is Roy, a father uncertain of how the world will react to his extraordinary son, and goes to any lengths to ensure his protection. Michael Shannon puts in a completely convincing portrayal, bringing a believability to the idea he'd do anything for Alton, who's wonderfully played by Jaeden Lieberher. It's a wonderful cast that's been brought together, but you're left wishing for a bit more characterisation, especially in regards to an underused Kirsten Dunst.

Of the two films about superpowered beings currently in cinemas, Jeff Nichols has delivered the preferable picture. The ambiguity may not be for all, but it helps to make Midnight Special a welcome change, despite the less than stellar moments.