Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver
A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers.
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★★★★ review by Arielrocks5 on Letterboxd
I'm not sure I can exactly describe my feeling towards Jeff Nichols's latest feature (Also my first real experience with him as a director and writer) without coming off as a bit aimless because that's still how I feel nearly an hour after I left the theater.
It's not exactly the hardest movie to follow in terms of story, it's fairly straight forward acting like a mix of early Spielberg such as "Close Encounters" or surprisingly enough, "The Sugarland Express" but also being and feeling a lot more grey.
As everything was going along, I never really felt something that can favor one emotion over the other while also trying to contain a critical mindset of whether or not it all works as a whole. The film doesn't really start or really end as it mostly goes along with these people who clearly have had a lot of history with this kid weight down on them with many questions waiting to be answered and fears wanting to be overthrown.
This is best shown in how the characters interact and seemingly don't say a whole lot with each other or even develop that much outside of maybe Paul (Adam Driver's character). It's almost like the film wants you to not latch onto these people with what's given to you, but of WHAT you make of them and how they react. But is this a legitimate work of clever story telling? Or simply an excuse for not bringing a whole lot to the table?
It's kinda the same thing with "The Witch" in a lot of ways, expect this is probably a lot more blunt in terms of running themes and meanings and yet never really goes beyond that. Which in turn can explain a lot of people's mixed or lukewarm reactions towards "Midnight Special", or maybe you're sick of seeing the kinda "E.T" type of story being told again in this day and age.
All of this is to why "Midnight Special" is something I think will become a lot clearer upon a future rewatch or a deeper look into certain aspects that weren't really spelled out that much throughout. What it does get right outside of story and tone is purely the stuff I wanted to see done well like good performances, cinematography, and music, and I got all of that.
The main theme of this film is probably my favorite piece of singular music from a film so far this year, acting like a "It Follows" and "Close Encounters" love child. Which is always a plus in my book.
Acting wise everyone is pretty damn solid, though like I said, they don't exactly have much to say as most of their looks and reactions with certain events and characters leave it up to you to pay attention and find more of the person within rather than simply having them explain themselves through off hand exposition. This is best shown in a scene during the final ten minutes where instead of a character saying what I expected them to say, they end up expressing everything they wanted through a simple look between the two actors.
I can't really think of a lot of issues I have with the film that keep it down, (Expect maybe the kid being a bit on the bland side for the most part even if the actor was trying his best) but it might be due to the fact that once it was over, I didn't exactly know what my opinion on it was since. One: The ending is a bit abrupt and sorta anti-climax depending on how you felt about the rest of the film. And two: Everything I said can change from positive to negative in a mere instant over night if I have time to think about it and or give it a second watch.
But then again, if a film leaves me asking questions and wanting to watch it a second time just to see if I can find more answers to make up for myself and experience the joy and tension once again of seeing all the smaller aspects build and build towards the final ten minutes, I guess the film has done it's job just right.
"Midnight Special" is something I wouldn't tell every single person I know to go out and watch right now, but it's certainly worth your time if you're up for some good grey Sci-Fi that can both entertain and leave you thinking a bit as the credits start to roll.
★★★★ review by Tasha Robinson on Letterboxd
Really enjoyed this road-movie flashback to the 1980s, equal parts Firestarter and E.T. with Close Encounters Of The Third Kind thrown in. But I wish it had a little more of the Jeff Nichols-specific magic to it, the depth of emotion and richness of writing that's defined his other movies. Nichols has admitted himself that he may have cut too much from this film to keep the story as cohesive as it should have been. In the end, I wanted his full version of the story, in novel form, spelling out all the things he glided over, as much as I wanted this film.
★★★★★ review by Serge (Hunter) The Movie Guy on Letterboxd
Alton Meyer: Dad?
Alton Meyer: Are you scared?
Alton Meyer: You don't have to worry about me.
Roy: I like worrying about you.
Alton Meyer: You don't have to anymore.
Roy: I'll always worry about you Alton. That's the deal.
★★★½ review by Nick Da Silva on Letterboxd
A sci-fi thriller that puts story and characters before special effects, Midnight Special is a strange, nuanced, poignant tale of family and faith guided by an ensemble of excellent performances.
★★★★ review by DirkH on Letterboxd
Looking at his filmography, I'd say it is impossible to ignore the storytelling talent of Mr. Nichols. No matter where he takes us, his ability to craft compelling stories and characters is one I admire greatly.
And for the better part, Midnight Special is no different. From the opening moments it's clear this is going to be Nichol's love letter to the science fiction genre. The first two acts are nigh perfection. A slow and deliberate show and tell that reveals a lot, yet still keeps you intrigued. As mundane as the plot may seem, it's Nichol's Midas touch and the great character work by the cast that lifts this several cuts above the rest.
Shannon's performance especially is as intense as ever. It is through that intensity and the surprisingly outstanding Lieberher we are treated to the core and beating heart of this film. The beauty of Science Fiction is that it allows artists to explore simple things in a fantastical way. Midnight Special is essentially about a father-son relationship. About the unconditional love that bond can provide. And Shannon and Lieberher make it work and then some.
The final act is somewhat disappointing in that the story only ever seems to go in one direction. And when it finally gets there, the unfulfilled wishes of what might have been take away some of the potential enjoyment.
It's a small blemish though on an otherwise outstanding film.
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