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Review: Midnight Special

Midnight Special
03.15.2016
10 10

PLOT: A man and his young son - who possesses special powers - are on the run from those who may seek to take advantage of the boy and his gifts.

REVIEW: There is a quiet intensity in the new film from writer/director Jeff Nichols. You could easily simplify it and call it a car chase film, but really, there is so much more. It is a brilliantly executed examination of a father and son relationship. As a science fiction feature, it is just as satisfying. There is a respect given to the audience to dig deeper into the events at hand. While I generally don’t share my own personal relationship with a film in a review, I am not afraid to say that this connected with me deeply. Perhaps it was the father and son aspect, but either way, this is one film I won’t soon forget.

Here is where it gets tricky. Walking in I knew nothing about this, and that is the way you should see it. The film tells the story of Roy (Michael Shannon) and his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). The two, along with a friend named Lucas (Joel Edgerton), are on the run. Alton is charmed with special powers but we aren’t told much more than that early on. Who they are running from and why, I’d rather not go into detail. However, the FBI is involved, as is a religious group led by a man named Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard). Again, you could call this a car chase film, but that is really secondary to what transpires in the just under two hour feature.

Michael Shannon is a marvel of an actor. And it is refreshing to see him play a character like Roy. When we first meet Roy and Lucas, we are unsure as to why they are on the run, but we do know that people are looking for Alton. The relationship between the three is absolutely powerful. And with Lucas, Edgerton is fantastic, ably helping to carry the film. Nichols has had a terrific relationship with Shannon - the actor has appeared in all four of his features - and it is so important for that to work here. The bond between the three is later strengthened by Kirsten Dunst, an actress who has proven to be especially strong in smaller character driven films.

After the success of STAR WARS: EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS, it was nice to see Adam Driver in this particular story. As one of the many searching for Roy and Alton, his fascination with the boy and what is happening around him is very believable. Also quite good is Sam Shepard as the previously mentioned leader of a church. It is role that could have been a stereotype in a film like this, but the character is far better written and performed than that. Even the smaller players are noteworthy. This includes Bill Camp and Scott Haze as disciples of Meyer, and Paul Sparks as Agent Miller of the FBI. In fact, there really isn’t a wrong note performance wise at all.

Like many modern filmmakers, Nichols has clearly been inspired by those before him. You could find a little Spielberg, Kubrick and Carpenter in this taut thriller. Thankfully, he is able to create his own voice in the way he tells it. When you say car chase flick, you might think that this is heavy on action but that is not necessarily the case. There is a build that raises the stakes especially high, but there is a slow burn quality to it as well. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Adam Stone, the use of shadows and light is very important, especially as they reveal the secrets Roy, Lucas and even Alton are trying to understand. Considering much of the film takes place at night or in darkness, there is a particularly haunting quality throughout visually speaking.

In regards to John Carpenter, one of the most memorable things about MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is the score itself. Composer David Wingo echoes Carpenter’s work slightly, with a similar build to the classic score from THE FOG - arguably one of Carpenter’s best. The way the music layers onto each progression, until the film’s stunning conclusion, it is a character unto itself. All of this works together to create an undeniably compelling experience.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a revelation. It may sound like the filmmaker borrows heavily from others, but believe me, this is still absolutely fresh. It is compelling and ultimately it carries a huge emotional impact. Perhaps some viewers may want more answers than the film gives, and that is fine, but the questions that remain seem to be far more meaningful without a straight forward explanation. As a movie that lends itself well to discussion, it is also one that would be hard to compare to Nichols’ earlier resume. That being said, everything here works. The score, the performances, the look and the structure are all fantastic. I loved this movie and everything it has to say.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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6:57PM on 03/19/2016

10/10?!! My counterpoint of "Starbo..." Er... Midnight Special

After reading your review and seeing this movie a 10 out of 10 (a very rare occurrence here on Joblo) I immediately looked for a screening (I actually got really lucky and caught one where Nichols did Q&A afterwards) Remarks that Nichols was inspired by Spielberg, Kubrick and John Carpenter we're fairly spot on. Especially Carpenter.
In fact. waaaay too similar to Carpenter (and I'm not talking about the music).
Halfway through "Midnight Special, I really felt like I was watching a
After reading your review and seeing this movie a 10 out of 10 (a very rare occurrence here on Joblo) I immediately looked for a screening (I actually got really lucky and caught one where Nichols did Q&A afterwards) Remarks that Nichols was inspired by Spielberg, Kubrick and John Carpenter we're fairly spot on. Especially Carpenter.
In fact. waaaay too similar to Carpenter (and I'm not talking about the music).
Halfway through "Midnight Special, I really felt like I was watching a remake of "Starman" (Only instead of a woman and man, it was a father and son relationship). Now while Starman is a 30+ year old movie, and Carpender only Directed the film there is of course is nothing wrong with being inspired by another movie to create something different. And as we all learned by now, movies are not sacred and subject to being retold. The problem with "midnight special" was that it wasn't that different. I mean, almost all of the story beats from Starman are in the same place and have the same cause-and-effect scenarios, as well as Adam Driver's character and his key scenes are taken straight out of the original movie. I mean if "lock out" can be sued for too many similarities to "escape from New York" then "midnight special" should really be on the lookout.
Plagiarism aside, the movie had some major flaws in my opinion. One particular one was introducing an antagonist in the form of religious cult and its leader that could have served as a much bigger threat and conflict to our main characters. The conflicted emotions, while portrayed masterfully by both Shannon and Dunst as the parents, I never fully explored hello Phino resolve seems highly unlikely especially for Dunst as mother. Too much missed opportunities that not only would have solidified both the internal and external conflict of the plot but it would also separated it, for me anyway, from Midnight Special's unofficial source material. On the other side of the coin, the performances were great, the production itself was beautifully dark and brooding.
Now, of course, films are subjective and so are its reviews (yours and mine included) and I only comment my response and reaction because it was your review that made me immediately decide to go and see this film (I mean, a 10 outta 10, JimmyO?!) This is not to say the film is bad or that your review is misleading because in the end, the film will receive its final judgment by its audience. However, It's a 6 for me, JimmyO. With an added footnote that "the original" was handled much better. But hey... We can agree to disagree.
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3:26AM on 03/17/2016
Wow, a 10. My expectations just went way up. Thanks, Jimmy! I kid. I really am looking forward to this. The trailer was fascinating and Nichols is an exceptional director, with Mud and especially Take Shelter being two memorable films from past years. This great review really ramps up my excitement to see this.
Wow, a 10. My expectations just went way up. Thanks, Jimmy! I kid. I really am looking forward to this. The trailer was fascinating and Nichols is an exceptional director, with Mud and especially Take Shelter being two memorable films from past years. This great review really ramps up my excitement to see this.
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7:26PM on 03/15/2016
Looking forward to this. Seen on another site 6.5 out of 10. I was disappointed until I seen this. I tend to trust most of the reviews on this site more than others
Looking forward to this. Seen on another site 6.5 out of 10. I was disappointed until I seen this. I tend to trust most of the reviews on this site more than others
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12:40PM on 03/15/2016
Excellent news. Booking to see it as soon as.
Excellent news. Booking to see it as soon as.
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12:27PM on 03/15/2016
I was hoping this would be good but I wasn't expecting a 10/10, now I'm really excited.
I was hoping this would be good but I wasn't expecting a 10/10, now I'm really excited.
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9:50AM on 03/15/2016
Nichols is an amazing talent. Mud, Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories ..now this.
Nichols is an amazing talent. Mud, Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories ..now this.
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9:22AM on 03/15/2016
I love it when these little sleeper hits come out of nowhere.
I love it when these little sleeper hits come out of nowhere.
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7:04AM on 03/15/2016
For a movie based on a music video it was pretty damn good. But M83's Midnight Trilogy was begging to become a movie.
For a movie based on a music video it was pretty damn good. But M83's Midnight Trilogy was begging to become a movie.
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4:20AM on 03/15/2016

8,5/10 in my books

great great movie.
So far, Jeff Nichols never disappointed me :
Shotgun Stories : 9/10 - Take Shelter : 8.5/10 - Mud : .8,5/10. IMHO, he is as talented as Nolan, and he deserves more spotlight (he should make a super hero movie maybe). Cannot wait to see his next movie : LOVING !
great great movie.
So far, Jeff Nichols never disappointed me :
Shotgun Stories : 9/10 - Take Shelter : 8.5/10 - Mud : .8,5/10. IMHO, he is as talented as Nolan, and he deserves more spotlight (he should make a super hero movie maybe). Cannot wait to see his next movie : LOVING !
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11:45AM on 03/15/2016
Too bad he turned down Aquaman
Too bad he turned down Aquaman
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