Midnight Special, directed by Jeff Nichols, is a film that has a constant ominous feeling running throughout it. With quieter more subtle scenes in which people converse in code or sudden bursts of unexpected action – Midnight Special is a film that keeps you guessing as to what the bigger picture is. This level of intrigue makes it a film that up until its very last moments, has you not only gripped by what may happen to the character, but also who or what is pulling the strings. So let’s jump into Midnight Special and see what it gets right and what it doesn’t.
The story in Midnight Special focuses on Alton Meyer – played by Jaeden Lieberher – who escapes with his father Roy Tomlin – played by Michael Shannon – and a childhood friend of his, Lucas – played by Joel Edgerton – from a cult that believes Alton receives messages from God. Hunted not only by the cult but also the FBI – who themselves have a vested interest in Alton – the three move fast and carefully towards a specific set of coordinates, coordinates that will hopefully have the answers they are seeking.
From the moment it starts, Midnight Special takes a commanding hold of your attention. You are dropped into a situation in which you know nothing – but are certainly interested to learn – and then overtime it slowly feeds you more and more information, all of which only adds to you wanting to stay involved. You’ll notice pretty quickly that the film makes no effort to hold your hand and guide you easily through the craziness of its world. Yes things are explained – like the unusual actions of Alton Meyer – but the film does it in a natural way. You’re not going to find a sloppily written script here; the film doesn’t unnaturally stop the flow of scenes so it can insert some awkwardly delivered exposition.
I really liked the way Midnight Special handled its original and different concept. This is something new – this isn’t a reboot or a film based on a book. Midnight Special is original in its creation and that means you go into it not knowing much. So it’s rewarding when you sit down to watch this film and it delivers something in a way that effortlessly keeps you engaged. Scene after scene, there are new revelations, and all of them just add to the intrigue. Whether its Alton speaking in tongues or a house almost being shaken a part. Midnight Special is a film that constantly keeps you on your toes.
So when the film does decide to give a little more insight into just what is going on it does it in the best way possible, in scenes that are realistic and insightful. People need to rest, people are naturally inquisitive and people sometimes need to share. What this results in are scenes in which the main characters talk about the important (and crazy) things that are happening to them. This all means that a level of believability is injected into these scenes – there is more weight to what they are doing, and when you understand the context of it all, there is more emotional meaning to it all.
Those moments are then thankfully all backed-up by a cast of actors who deliver some great characters. Absolutely at the forefront of that is they young actor who plays Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) who brings both an innocence and a superiority to the role. In some moments he comes across like a normal 8-year-old boy, and in other moments he’s almost like an ethereal presence that is all-knowing. Such a range makes him a character that undoubtedly peaks your interest on a continuous basis.
By his side always is his father Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) and as you’d expect from Michael Shannon, he is commanding in his scenes and he is intense in the more stressful of situations. What I like about the character is the strength and the determination of him. This is a man who will do anything – and he does. Michael Shannon’s character has his opposite in Kirsten Dunst’s character Sarah Tomlin – Alton’s Mother. She brings a lot of the heart to the more intense moments and also seems to keep Roy stable when his rapid reactions get the better of him. Dunst’s character finds her place quickly in the film and it is one that helps keep some brightness, in what is a dire situation.
Also Lucas (Joel Edgerton) who is like the muscle of the film has so much to offer. He is almost the audience in the film. He has the most questions and he is at times as lost as we are. His character also brings some levity, as his friendship with Alton is one that will certainly put a smile on your face.
Midnight Special is filled with not only interesting and great characters but they are also backed up by some great talent. Adam Driver (who you’ll recognise as Kylo Ren in ‘The Force Awakens), Sam Shepard, Paul Sparks etc. This film doesn’t only have its frontrunners be engaging, it also makes sure the ones in the back have meaningful things to do.
One of the biggest elements of Midnight Special is the questions it poses. Thankfully this isn’t a ‘Lost’ situation and the questions are answered. But unfortunately there is one glaring issue with one of the questions in the film and it so happens to be the biggest one. No Spoilers, don’t worry. The ending of the film doesn’t really result in the kind of payoff that is satisfying. The films is plagued by that age-old problem – the questions are always more interesting than the answers, and that is certainly the case with this film. When it was finally revealed, when the curtain was pulled back and we see what is behind it, it’s kind of a flat note moment. I truly believe the film would have benefited from it being ambiguous as to what exactly was going on. Leaving it to the audience to decipher, would have made the conversation after the film more rewarding and more interesting – instead of revealing all the inner workings. It’s not a problem that ruins the film but it is a problem that takes a little something away from it.
The last point I want to touch upon is the imagery in the film and just how beautifully it is all shot. There are scenes in this film that are both stunning and also unsettling. I was constantly being wowed by just how good this film looked. Cinematographer, Adam Stone has an eye for detail and exquisite presentation – all of which goes into elevating the impact of many a scene in Midnight Special. You will certainly be treated well when it comes to your visual sense.
From the first time I saw the eerie trailer for this film I knew it was going to be one that I would want to see, and I’m happy that, that want, then turned into a gratifying experience. This film interests you with a very different concept, while also tugging at your heart-strings, and then expertly wraps it all up in some beautiful presentation – yes the film trips slightly at the end, but when it’s all said and done – Midnight Special leaves a lasting impact on you.
I’m clearly going to recommend Midnight Special. There is so much to enjoy – film lovers and general movie goers will get a lot out of seeing this film, and this is one that should quickly climb to the top of your watch-list.
I’d love to know what you thought of either this review or the film itself? So feel free to shoot me a comment down below telling me. If you’d like to keep up to date with my other ramblings, you could either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. All that’s left to say is thank you and have a great end to your week.