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Midnight Special (2016)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Jeff Nichols

Starring:
Michael Shannon/Roy
Joel Edgerton/Lucas
Kirsten Dunst/Sarah
Adam Driver/Sevier
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Two men (Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton) are on the run from the government trying to get an odd child (he's precocious and can't handle daylight) to a specific place on a key day. Cue in Twilight Zone theme!
THE LOWDOWN

Like many of you out there, I was a huge fan of Jeff Nichols layered 2011 genre offering TAKE SHELTER, starring the always-reliable MICHAEL “ZOD” SHANNON. So after hearing all of the praise, for Nichols latest, I walked into MIDNIGHT SPECIAL mucho eager to see what the mofo had pulled off this time around. Although not as powerful as TAKE SHELTER (well for me that is), he still concocted yet another taunt, thought provoking and visceral thriller.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL reminded me of a mix of STARMAN (which I so need to see again, it has been too long) and FIRESTARTER. The former in terms of being about a “special being” trying to get to a specific location while being hunted by the powers that be and the latter due to the father/child dynamic. As opposed to those two films though, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL went about telling its story in a vague manner, dropping us into the action right off the bat with little back-story and tossing out more questions than answers along the way. Going about its game in that manner worked for and against the film IMO. On the upside; the narrative grabbed me by the lapel quicker than you can say “Frankenberries” and it kept me in its grasp throughout by way of thick tension and its engrossing mystery. I was racking my brain the whole way through, trying to piece it all together, forming opinions on what was TRULY going on and WHO or WHAT was that kid (I have my theories, half based in science, half based in religion - lets have a beer and talk it out). Needless to say that made for a stimulating watch. I’ll focus on the negative aspect of that M.O. further down this drivel.

The genius cast was quite the asset as well! Michael Shannon was at his most intense putting out a mix of affable, loving yet a pinch frightening. Joel Edgerton was mucho endearing as the gent there to help while a worn out  Kirsten Dunst put out some her best work here. Moreover young Jaeden Lieberher was uber convincing as the intelligent otherworldly child and Adam Driver did just fine as the somewhat awkward scientist. Well played people! The movie itself wore gripping themes of family and spirituality proudly on its sleeve. It also looked fantastic with sleek photography, wow visual effects (by D Global Studio) and stylish camera movements. Tag to that a potent musical score by David Wingo (with the theme really hitting home) and the flick randomly managing to tap into my sense of awe (especially during the last act) and you get a striving Sci-Fi trip! FANBOY NOTE: was I alone in getting a kick out of watching Shannon (who played ZOD in Man of Steel) tell his kid not to read that Superman comic? That had to be intentional...LOL! END OF NOTE.

Alas, as previously elbow dropped, although playing the vague card worked in the movie's favor when it came to catching my attention and stimulating my grey matter, it worked against it in other instances. For this twat, it was the emotional resonance that was lacking. The flick introduced us to lots of peeps, posed many questions and tossed out there countless ideas but it didn’t explore all of them enough for tme to be affected 100%. I mean how did the parental unit give birth to that “special” child in the first place? And how did the brat wind up stuck in that cult? Speaking of the cult, more on them would have been swell too! They were established early on (with the great Sam Shepard selling it via his stand out showcase) and then dropped quicker than a bad habit. Too bad! I was interested in said cult's connection to the boy, their Messiah-ish take on him and what he meant to them. In short, the reason why I am not fawning over Midnight Special as much as everybody else, is because it’s knack of glazing over things worked for it mystery/suspense but resulted in me not being affected by the whole as much as I should have been.

Hence as the end credits rolled; I was a happy film-goer but knew right there and then that MIDNIGHT SPECIAL wouldn’t stay with me the way TAKE SHELTER did. It had all of the right ingredients in its blender that’s for sure, but something was missing to elevate it beyond to masterpiece level! Maybe I need a second watch! Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about! You tell me mothertruckers!

GORE
We get some gun shot wounds.
T & A
NOPE!
BOTTOM LINE
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was a beautifully shot, brilliantly acted and compelling watch from start to finish. It sported aces visual effects, a top notch score, some suspense and it asked many questions whilst letting me come up with the bulk of the answers. With that spat, as much as its vagueness played in its favor, it also played against it (for me that is) as I didn't wind up being moved by the characters and the situation as much as I should have. I do feel the film may require a second viewing for me to fully esteem it, we'll see if that ever happens. If you haven't had a first screening on your end yet though, do give it a tap, it's worth it!
BULL'S EYE
The film was shot in New Orleans with a budget of 18 million dollars.

Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon have worked together 4 times now.
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+0
2:06PM on 04/08/2016

I've been wanting to see this.

I enjoy watching Shannon in these indie films. Hey Arrow when are you going to review Baskin?
I enjoy watching Shannon in these indie films. Hey Arrow when are you going to review Baskin?
Your Reply:



3:54PM on 04/10/2016
It's worth a watch! As for Baskin, I won't be reviewing it, but I saw it and it wasn't my bag.
It's worth a watch! As for Baskin, I won't be reviewing it, but I saw it and it wasn't my bag.

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