Opening in a hotel room with boarded up windows and duct tape on the peep hole, we see Roy (Shannon) and Lucas (Edgerton) with young Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a boy sporting bug-eyed swimmers goggles. Although the television is reporting that the boy has been abducted, we learn that Roy is his father and they are on their way to a location that Alton has told them he must be. Alton loves comic books, but he is not your typical child. He is someone else, something else. The church they were a part of believes he is a messiah, while the NSA and FBI believe him to be an enemy, a weapon, a terrorist, or possibly not from this planet.
Nichols film takes excellent care and precision in each scene, with a thumping score from composer David Wingo. The pace is excellent, as the trio's journey in a beat-up Chevelle on the roads of Texas continue, one can never feel comfortable. Whatever the issue is with Alton, it reveals itself with beams of light shooting from his eyes, an ability to speak in multiple languages, and a beautifully alarming scene where satellite debris falls from the sky, bringing a sense of shock and awe.
The themes in Midnight Special are battles between religion and science. The church that Roy and Alton were once a part of has divided them from Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), their mother, who keeps her long braided hair, but has the look of a woman who survived the zealots of her past. The other followers have a cult-like presence, desperately yearning to believe in a savior, where all people dress alike, and leader Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard) sends his men with guns to retrieve the boy. NSA's officer Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) decodes an encryption, and thus, he may be the only one to realize that something of another world may be at hand.
The spirit of past cinematic achievements such as Close Encounters, E.T., or John Carpenter's Starman that lay below the surface of Midnight Special. There is a darling message of family love, as Shannon gives another strong performance, but a climax that is open to the viewers interpretation, that I dare not spoil here. I think Midnight Special is a film that is a rare treat in the world of cinema today. It's a reminder that films can still shock, awe, and surprise, making Jeff Nichols a director that we can praise and know that he is for real.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
STARRING: MICHAEL SHANNON; JOEL EDGERTON; KIRSTIN DUNST
DIRECTOR: JEFF NICHOLS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
Without mincing words, Midnight Special is what the title says, a special film, that resonates with themes about parenting, religion, and science fiction. After the success of such films as Take Shelter and Mud, writer/director Jeff Nichols brings us something that will remind audiences of classic Spielberg efforts, while also displaying an original and engaging piece of film. Midnight Special is the type of movie you watch multiple times.