“Midnight Special” Movie Review

Yes, I realize I have to finish Daredevil Season 2 and see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But first, as a fan of all almost things sci-fi, I bring you this. This science-fiction drama thriller received a limited release on March 18th, 2016. Grossing just over 1 million within that limited release, this is the fourth feature length film from writer-director Jeff Nichols, who is quickly and deservedly becoming one of the most talented storytellers of his generation. The story follows an 8-year-old boy named Alton Meyer, who possesses incredible and unearthly powers, as he and his father Roy flee from a religious cult. With the help of his childhood friend, state trooper Lucas, they have to take Alton to a certain location where a celestial, even world-changing event might occur. However, some of the cult members devise a plan to steal Alton back, whom they see as a Messiah and prophesier. This attracts the attention of the FBI, as the sermons and dates used in the cult are actually encoded with government information communicated via satellite. Midnight Special honestly reminded me of last year’s Ex Machina, in that it was a low-key science-fiction movie that focuses more on ideas than spectacle. Though not as tense as that movie, its visuals are very nicely polished, especially in the last act of the story. There are a lot of noteworthy performances, so here we go. First off, Michael Shannon is completely convincing as Roy and brings sincerity and fear to a father who wants to connect with his son, a stark deviation from his portrayal of a creepy, selfish Prohibition agent in Boardwalk Empire that gained him initial recognition. Speaking of which, Jaeden Lierberher is a surprisingly good child actor, sharing some great chemistry with Shannon. Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepherd, and Adam Driver all gave typically wonderful performances in their limited yet pivotal roles. But the one that stands out the most has to be Kirsten Dunst as Alton’s mother. Outside of her early stint as Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, I can’t name a single thing she has done that I remember or that has impressed me. Until this film. She’s so understated yet perfect as Sarah. In fact, one of the things that separates Midnight Special from its peers is that it’s just so driven and based on different emotions. It’s mysterious, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s inspirational all at the same time. It can truly be called a “modern science fiction” movie- it’s a unique and mostly original story that tries not to be derivative of other properties or part of any sort of franchise. Though a case could be made for Stephen King’s The Green Mile, it still stands on it’s own due in large part to the narrative ultimately being a father-son tale. It’s simple: there’s a boy with special powers who’s dad must take him to a place for a world-changing event in his life. With that simplicity, Midnight Special can already be hailed as one of the year’s best films, and as one of the most original and memorable science-fiction experiences in recent memory. Even though it’s technically in a limited release, I issue a call-to-arms of all fans of science-fiction to see it at the earliest opportunity. Jeff Nichols is a modern treasure trove of creativity, and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next.

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