Much as reviewers and show runners are claiming to be in the beginnings of a television Renaissance age, it’s about time for films to circle back to being wonderful pieces of storytelling on the big screen. After the surprise success (and awesomeness) of 10 Cloverfield Lane, we may be returning into the realm of strong science fiction theater contenders.
Midnight Special’s writer/director Jeff Nichols had a vision with this film, one that I say he got across to the audiences without a ton of talking down to them, something that can happen when you get such a concept. It’s really Starman meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind and what Disney’s Tomorrowland could have been, with some truly superb performances from Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, and Jaeden Lieberher. I’ll only tell you what we know about him from the trailers, because you’ll want to go into this knowing the utmost minimum.
Jaeden’s character Alton is a very special boy, with a high sensitivity to sunlight and sounds. He shoots high intensity light from his eyes, something he cannot control all the time, and it does things to the world around him. Tom, played by Shannon, is on a quest to take Alton to safety and away from the ultra religious Texas compound to an undisclosed location by a certain date. Tom is helped on his trip by Lucas (Edgerton) his expert knowledge of how to get around undetected finally making sense towards the halfway point of the movie. Dunst, while not in the film very long, has some real emotionally shaken scenes with Alton.
This is actually the 4th time Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon have worked together, previous works include acclaimed Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and Mud. In thinking back to those films, it’s wonderful to see how much Shannon has come into his own as such a fabulous actor. You believe every single character, especially him as a father.
I cannot say enough good things about the editing and the performances from this film. Without them, it could have easily gone the way of a Friday night SyFy movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I enjoy them as the campy silly treats they are. But this was really something different, something with a soul and direction. While yes, it isn’t your typical space-violence throughout the entire thing, the pacing was good and steady, and kept the audience engaged the entire time. A more silent theater I haven’t been in awhile for a screening.
There were two moments unintentionally funny I have to tell you about so you’ll be prepared and not BARK with laughter like I did:
1.) Adam Driver as the NSA expert of codes and satelite things had a Matt the Radar technician/Star Wars line, where we was talking about various phrases Alton had been recorded saying. One such thing? “Red saber”.
2.) While on the drive to wherever, Alton is constantly reading comic books by flashlight. We have a scene of him reading a classic Superman story, and he asks the two adults in the vehicle “What’s Kryptonite?” to which Michael Shannon responds “It isn’t real”. So, Zod saying Kryptonite isn’t real.
A VERY solid 8.5 out of 10 for my score, I am most definitely planning to see this movie again. Hopefully, it will do well at theaters and remind the big studios that not every hit film has to be BIG and overpriced.