By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A+ (4 stars)
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
You know those movies that you have very little knowledge of but the trailers leave you interested and curious to see the finished product and you think “Yeah that looks pretty good, I’ll have to check that out” but then it turns out being better than what you expected? Well, that’s all my thoughts on Midnight Special in a nutshell, the latest film directed by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud) and starring Michael Shannon (Mud, Premium Rush, Man of Steel) and Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire, Spider-Man trilogy, Marie Antoinette).
I’ve only seen a trailer once in theaters and a few ads on TV so that was a movie that didn’t really get my attention very much (probably because my eyes were drawn towards films like Deadpool and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice). So I came into this movie with little knowledge of the premise, all I knew is that it was about a father and his son with superpowers and it’s a similar premise to those sci-fi movies that were popular in the 70s and 80s, specifically Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The film completely took me by surprise, Midnight Special is one of those sci-fi movies that doesn’t rely much on big budget, flashy special effects and over the top action sequences, but instead suspense, build-up, and character development. It reminds me a lot of sci-fi movie classics, from The Day The Earth Stood Still to the early films by Steven Spielberg, but it manages to keep people guessing, no matter what generation they are.
The film follows father, Roy (Shannon) and his eight-year-old son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher-St. Vincent, Masters of Sex, Aloha) who possesses extraordinary powers, escaping from a religious cult in Texas. Unfortunately, the news claims that Alton was abducted by Roy and the police and FBI are on the hunt for them.
When an Amber Alert is issued for Alton and the military and FBI are hot on their tail, Roy, his childhood friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton-Star Wars: Episodes II and III, Smokin’ Aces, Black Mass), and Alton’s mother, Sarah (Dunst) make it their mission to bring the child to an undisclosed location on a specific date to bring the mysterious boy back to his world.
Overall, Midnight Special is a unique experiment in modern film, it’s not a flashy big budget blockbuster like most sci-fi movies these days, but rather a slow, character driven, and thrilling experience. The movie keeps you guessing and you don’t know where it’s going and it’ll leave you breathless.
It’s a breath of fresh air to see a sci-fi movie that takes its time to develop the story and characters, especially after all the Star Wars, Transformers, and comic book movies that feature loud special effects and frenetic action sequences. The film reminds me a lot of the classic Spielberg films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and even a little bit of A.I. Artificial Intelligence and sci-fi classics like The Day The Earth Stood Still, a movie that manages to take me back to when I first watched Close Encounters gets extra points.
But aside from the plot and filmmaking style, the cast is very solid, a very different Michael Shannon performance compared to what I usually see him in, whenever I think of the actor I go directly to his villain performances from Premium Rush and Man of Steel, Lieberher is a fine child actor and very convincing as the boy not from our world, and it’s great to finally see Kirsten Dunst in a movie again, I swear it’s been a while since I last seen her acting in a movie, I swear I haven’t seen her in a supporting role since Spider-Man 3, her cameo in Anchorman 2 doesn’t count, and she does a fine job as the boy’s mother and she does a lot less screaming than her performance from the Spider-Man films.
If you’re a fan of classic sci-fi films, Spielberg and Shyamalan films, and movies that take their time to develop the story and characters, Midnight Special is a “Special” worth experiencing any time of the day.
Midnight Special is now playing at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle, WA and Cinemark Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue, WA