Midnight Special (2016)

After rescuing his son from a cult, Michael Shannon goes on the run after he is pursued by the FBI because of the cult’s belief that the boy has special powers.

Jeff Nichols always gets fantastic performances out of his actors, he has a special talent with child actors too, his previous film ‘Mud’ really lived or died based on the performance of the children and they were excellent. Midnight Special is no different, Jaeden Lieberher gave a solid performance throughout the film and really pulled off being an odd child.

Speaking of the performances, Michael Shannon was fantastic as always, though he definitely is more suited to be a villain, the occasional moments where Shannon’s character freaks out, it’s like he is drawing from some darkness within him and it’s fantastically genuine. Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver were both solid as usual, each having their own little moments in the film that shone a light on how good they are.

The story was very interesting, if a little predictable and occasionally derivative. Having most of the scenes take place at night allowed for some unique ideas, like driving with your lights off while wearing night vision goggles so you won’t be spotted. Just small things like that do wonders for your immersion and instantly gravitates you towards this story.

It feels as though the whole cult aspect of the film was dropped fairly quickly, which is disappointing as that was becoming increasingly more interesting. Instead dividing focus between Michael Shannon and his accomplices on the run and the FBI trying to track them down. As the film unfolds more and more is discovered about Alton, Shannon’s son and while a lot of the details are very paint-by-numbers, it does lead to some cool scenes.

During the first act of the film, there was huge importance placed on March 9th, however there are no indicators for what day each of the different scenes occur, that rolls into the cult aspect being dropped in favour of a more even split between scenes. By losing the cult aspect though a lot of the intrigue and mystery behind Alton is dropped.

This film would have been better suited if it played out like ‘Take Shelter’ Jeff Nichols’ best film, in that you didn’t know what was real until the final scene. That would have given everything much greater impact and severity to everything that has previously taken place throughout the film.

This is backed up very early in the film, all the audience is told is that a man has been kidnapped. Then when the kidnapper and his associate are cornered by a police officer, it leads to a very tense scene and already had the audience questioning everything. Had the whole film been as tense and down to earth as that scene, this would have far and away been Nichols’ best film and a fantastic overall film.

Instead Midnight Special goes for flashy action scenes, that while they are shot beautifully and add excitement to the film, often ring hollow in the grand scheme of the story. However the fantastic Michael Shannon manages to salvage most of this and make Midnight Special a watchable and fun, if forgettable film.

6/10

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