This has been on my platter this week to review, but sadly I haven’t had the time to get round to it. So, with no more delays, let’s get to it. And this was worth the wait.
Directed by Jeff Nichols, it follows a father (Michael Shannon) fleeing from the police forces, who are trying to seek down his son (Jaeden Lieberher). He has enlisted the help of a past friend (Joel Edgerton), as they seek refuge in hotel rooms while driving through the night to go unseen. However, the mysterious element lies with the child, who appears to have some form of high-level supernatural powers, and he was beloved by the cult which his father fled from previously. There is some significance in a specific place and time which his son must be at, but what may happen then, and how they will make it, is unknown.
Trying to dance around the storyline here without spoiling the major aspects is very difficult, even more so than the usual story since this is a relatively small release. It is the kind of movie you will spot on the cinema walls without realising it had been released, so going in cold is an absolute MUST. In fact, for me it played out quite differently from my predictions of “Chronicle-meets-X Men First Class”. But even so, it still took a fascinating route through a much more personal story, brimming with Deep South Gothic crime and Noir. There is no glamour to the locations or sequences, it all feels gritty and rusted in the same way as “No Country for Old Men” did. It makes for riveting drama, and some excellent suspense.
I am kind of neandering around in my description here, so let’s focus in on the kid actor. Simply said, he is excellently cast and delivers a really resounding performance. He appears like any kid you will meet – a little odd for sure, but still intelligent and inquisitive. But all the time you know something big is happening, and it is a case of piecing together the information you are delivered in order to get a better idea of who he is. Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton work brilliantly alongside each other, as the father is dead-set on seeing out the goal, while his friend increasingly has doubts as to the implications. Again, another display of quality casting.
It is odd seeing a gritty Indie-style drama like this have supernatural / superhero-ish elements set into the script. And the first time you witness what this kid can do it is a real shock, the movie throwing a hammer at the window pane to make sure they have your attention. But it works very well with the overall story, blending slow-burning sequences with major moments of progress or tension. The effects for the most part pass the test too, though one shot outside of the car showing the shining light came across as almost a joke. But casting aside that momentary blip on the radar, the ending does deliver on the build-up and thankfully doesn’t cop out or under-perform.
With my only complaint being that the running time feels a little long, “Midnight Special” was a real surprise. Something genuinely unique delivered in a way that felt like a well thought out entity, rather than an idea stapled into an existing script. The cast is relatively small, but all step up to the demands of the screenplay. The camera positioning and lighting is superbly well thought out and sits snugly in the noir, gritty world that has been designed. Some of the effects are incredible considering the sub-$20million budget that was available. I mean, the moment with the satellite? Fucking scary as shit. An it all leads to a satisfying ending that you can think upon.
But the best bit of all is that this strange combination of genres and ideas formed together to create a movie that is a fresh entry into the Sci Fi model. It will appeal to lots of film fans because it delivers on far more than just one level. This director might become a significant name after this production. I’m not fully sure if this will make the “Best of 2016” lists, but as for “Top Favourites of 2016”? For me, it stands a damm good chance.
Thanks for reading!