Director Jeff Nichols (Mud) tells the story of Alton Meyer, a child with extraordinary abilities who along with his father played by Michael Shannon (99 Homes) is being pursued by the government who see him as a weapon and a cult who see him as some form of second coming.
Hollywood has been searching for their next 'Steven Spielberg' for years, with efforts like Super 8 from J.J Abrams and Jurassic World from Colin Trevorrow, we've not been so lucky. With Midnight Special, a new contender has entered the fray as Jeff Nichols shows off some expert skill with this truly fascinating story filled with mystery, religion, family and science fiction.
Midnight Special is somewhat of an unexpected departure for Jeff Nichols. His previous three films were mature dramatic pieces and now with Midnight Special, he delves into the world of science fiction. Alton Meyer played just terrifically by Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent) is a young boy with extraordinary powers. This attracts the attention of both the federal government and a local cult who worship the child. The government believes Alton to be a weapon whilst the "Ranch" believes him to be their savior. Midnight Special carefully merges these two beliefs together and is a perfect blend of religion and science.
There's only been a few films this year so far in which the story has gripped me right from the beginning, fortunately I can now add Midnight Special to that short list. We're thrown into the middle of this story and it's immediately captivating. The film begins as a road trip thriller, with Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton (Black Mass) taking Alton to a place of major significance. Little by little, the story unfolds and builds up to a spectacular final reveal. I don't want to give anything away in terms of plot as I went in knowing little to nothing about the story and came out having loved the film. Be warned, there is a literalism to a certain act three reveal which whilst I liked, is admittedly not as interesting as the mystery which precedes it. Not knowing is the best part of Midnight Special.
The film's story is just incredibly interesting and becomes more and more so as the film progresses and the mystery unveils. It's scripted excellently and this might be my favorite directing effort from Jeff Nichols yet, it's paced magnificently. The performances are all solid; Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) are the definite standouts playing Alton's father, an accomplice and an NSA researcher respectively. At the center of this thrilling story is the bond between Alton and his father, a strange relationship but one that I was always rooting for, mainly because of Michael Shannon's terrific performance as a surprisingly much warmer and kinder character than we're used to seeing him play.
It's obvious to see in the film that everyone on board was treating the story with real seriousness and respect. It's full of heart, it's humorous when it needs to be and it's incredibly compelling, there are the right amount of twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout. There are some fantastic visuals and standout scenes, my favorite being one that takes place at a gas station where Alton does something quite dangerous with his ambiguous abilities. Tonally, the film is a slam dunk. It's tense from scene one and doesn't let up until the conclusion. Nichols manages to keep the film grounded in reality despite the plot becoming increasingly fantastical.
Midnight Special is probably my favorite movie of 2016 so far, I highly recommend seeking this film out. I'm giving it a 9/10.
What did you think of Midnight Special? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JamesPorter97