FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “Midnight Special,” which stars Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Premium Rush), Joel Edgerton (The Gift , Exodus: Gods and Kings), Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent, Aloha), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man , Melancholia), Adam Driver (Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens, Inside Llewyn Davis), Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down, Swordfish), Paul Sparks (Boardwalk Empire [TV series], Synecdoche New York), Bill Camp (Black Mass, 12 Years a Slave), and Scott Haze (Child of God, Between Us). It is written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter). When Roy (Shannon) kidnaps his son with mysterious powers, Alton (Lieberher), from a religious cult, they go on the run, heading to a location that Alton has spoken of through his powers.
This movie has been sitting in my watch list for an incredibly long time, and to be honest, I should’ve placed it at the top. I’ve been anticipating this film for quite a while. Not just because it’s a sci-fi (which we get very little of nowadays), but because the trailer left me in the dark. I didn’t know what to expect, and I couldn’t help but be captivated by its mystery. The reviews that came out about this picture, however, made me a bit nervous. The majority of people thought that it was so-so, with many complaints pertaining to the ending, which not many understood. I’ve seen these excuses for not liking a film before, and usually I end up liking the movie more than any of them, so I still plunged into this, with an open mind. As everyone may have guessed, I came out of this feature ecstatic, for it may be one of the best original science fiction pieces to come out since “Ex Machina.” It’s a bold statement, but it is entirely true. Some have even expressed this to be a throwback to the classics, like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which I’ve never seen, but only a few parts. Whatever you refer it to, this is a hidden, Indie gem of 2016, and I’ll explain why. The biggest reason why this feature astounds me is how it doesn’t spoon feed me the plot. In fact, it never intends to do that, as I actually have to work out scenes in my mind in order to understand the situations our characters are in. They don’t talk like they are reading a book to a child, giving away the details and making sure that we are following along. This is one of those rare instances, nowadays, where the writer doesn’t think of his audience as idiots. I felt like I was intruding on a scenario, where the characters knew what they were doing, talking to people like in real life on a level that they already understand, and I would have to make sense of it. “Why would these guys kidnap this child?” “Where are they going, and why do they only travel at night?” These questions are answered in the dialogue, but they aren’t given away like candy; you have to pay attention. It’s a big order to ask of the general moviegoers now, as most just want sugary entertainment with very little to focus on but action or romance. I admit that I fall into this line sometimes. I’m a fan of films like “Mission: Impossible” and even have guilty pleasures like 2007’s “Transformers” and its sequels. However, I am always searching for something to blow me away; have me follow the journey instead of the story carrying me to the destination. People don’t seem to care too much for that stuff anymore (unless companies are making all of these reboots, superhero movies, and sequels for no one), and it’s a shame. This is a very original piece. It shrouds itself in darkness, sparking curiosity in me. I was engaged and captivated for the entire runtime, and even though I knew what was going on towards the last twenty or thirty minutes, the story still ended in a bang. It was a satisfying conclusion that, while some people hated, I liked. It was realistic on a fictional level, and all loose ends were tied up by its finale. Sure, I would’ve wanted it to end in a way that would leave me guessing and wondering what the heck happened, but I was content with what I was given, as there were still a few questions left unanswered. It’s not a loud story. It doesn’t go out of its way to keep your attention by blowing up things constantly or having tons of chase scenes. When something crazy did happen, it freaked me out, because most of this keeps things on a somber level. There will be things that you will discover about this child that are insane, and when they happen, you will always be left wanting to see more. That’s how the characters feel when they are affected by this kid. Now that I mentioned it, let’s move on to the characters. Although not many of them were developed, this plot was essentially about the boy, Alton, and getting him to a specific location. I did want to know a little more about Roy and even Sarah, Kirsten Dunst’s character, which may be my first con, but it would be small considering how I didn’t need to know much about them to push the plot. It would’ve been good to have that development, though. All of the figures in this were more or less interesting, and they were all portrayed well. Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton blew me away in this, as I only saw them for their roles and not their faces. Their subconscious chemistry onscreen was fantastic. They worked well together. Jaeden Lieberher, who I last saw in “St. Vincent,” did a great job playing Alton. It’s hard to find good child actors, and he pulled off his role fantastically. Kirsten Dunst was also in this, as well as Adam Driver. Dunst did a really good job, although her role was short, and Driver did good too. It’s hard to see him now that he has played Kylo Ren, a wimpy bad guy in the “Star Wars” universe I might add. But, he did good in this nonetheless. Moving on, the directing and cinematography in this was fantastic. I loved the look and feel of this, especially the night scenes. The beginning shots of Roy, Lucas (Edgerton), and Alton driving down the highway at night were awesome, and gave this story a certain essence that was interesting. Jeff Nichols did a terrific job, as he did with “Mud,” another film I liked. I will say that the daytime sequences weren’t as flavorful as the night, but the plot was still strong either way. Another thing I want to add is how great the musical score is. Their theme for the movie is awesome, and I have enjoyed listening to the soundtrack as I’ve been typing this review. Finally, we get to the cons. It’s difficult to say what I found to be the problem with this because it’s such an odd subject to tackle. There’s so much to take out of this experience, but I did find the first half to be better than the second. I loved being plunged into the darkness, trying to find my way out, and once I did and began to know what was happening, the plot lost its big punch it had. That’s solely because of the mystery, and I wouldn’t say that it destroyed this film. I was still wanting to know what would happen at the end and how our characters would get out of their tough situation, and on some notes this doesn’t finish the way most people would want. Really, that would be my only conflict with this release, besides some small character development that would’ve been interesting to see. Overall, this is an amazing, fresh sci-fi that I implore any fan of the genre to check out. It gives me hope that there are still people out there who want us to think rather than hand us everything. FINAL SCORE: 95%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: