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Isn’t it funny how the success of one or more genre films can lead you to others? Unlike many, I pretty much had no idea who Adam Driver was until he appeared in Star Wars, apart from his long sting in Girls, he had just been bouncing around doing one off shows. Michael Shannon, on the other hand, has had a long and distinguished film career, but recently made a big splash playing Zod in Man of Steel. I think it is the combination of these two actors who are prominent at the moment that might make you want to see Midnight Special (2016. 1 hr, 47 min, 08 sec)...
The film is written and direct by Jeff Nichols and, if you have not seen any of his other films, he is a director who likes to show, rather than explain. In the case of this film it means that some aspects of the film are open to the audiences interpretation, rather than having everything neatly arranged in a box marked ‘moron’.
Midnight Special tells the story of Alton Meyer who is on the run from both the FBI and a church of fanatics. Running with him is his father, Roy and another adult male, Lucas. If that sounds like a stilted way of describing what is happening, it’s the best that can initially be done with the clues taken from the story.
At first all we are aware of is that two men are on the run, from both groups, with a young boy. None of this is explained so the audience is not sure whether the two men are rescuing or abducting him, it leaves the audience in a little bit of a narrative wasteland. As the film progresses the relationships coalesce into something approaching normality, which just throws up different questions.
Not to spoil it, Alton is both different and special, he is able to intercept data from government satellites which is so secret just being aware of its existence would be enough to have you shot. The data is repeated to the religious cult, which we quickly learn will kill to get him back, because they believe that he is speaking in tongues and is a messenger from God.
What Alton can do, what it means and whether the joint forces of conservatism, religion and law, will be enough to stop him doing whatever it is he feels the need to do... only time and the film will tell.
Not to imply that Midnight Special is ripping anybody off, but we have seen the basic premise of the film in others like E.T. (1982), Starman (1984) and K-Pax (2001). Given the chase element, Starman is the film's natural predecessor. That said the "show, don’t tell" ethos works well to cover plot holes and generate narrative tension.
Only a DVD screener was supplied for review, so I cannot comment on any extras the finished product might have. Likewise, the soft and grainy picture may well be due to it being a screener so its difficult to discuss the quality of the film. Audio for the screener was linear PCM 2 channel.
If you like science fiction with a little challenge then this is probably well worth a look as it provides an intelligent film which asks its audience to think.