4-22-2016 MOVIE REVIEW: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016)
One of the great young writers/film-makers in the business is Jeff Nichols, who directed the drama-thriller films “Take Shelter” and “Mud” in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Known for his gradual buildup of suspense, where mid-way or even near the end of the picture audiences are poised for some major development in the storyline, Nichols has been quite the talk these last couple of years on the independent film circuit and his pictures, despite their limited budgets, are finding their way into theaters who’ve in the past only catered to mainstream productions. His latest science-fiction thriller and full-fledged studio production (the film is financed by Warner Brothers) “Midnight Special” starts out incredibly slow and ramps up speed towards the end. “Midnight Special” tells the fascinating story of a father-Roy (played by Michael Shannon) and his best friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) who’ll stop at nothing to protect Roy’s child named Alton who possesses great powers.
When the film opens the trio are in a car and an Amber Alert is issued on the radio for a missing child. Come to find out the two have taken Alton and escaped a religious commune in the outskirts of Texas without telling anyone. The FBI, NSA and members of the cult all get involved in the hunt attempting to return the child and bring the two men to justice; however Roy and his partner after connecting with the child’s mother (Kirsten Dunst) lead authorities on a wild chase all across the southeastern United States in order to bring Alton to the exact place in the wilderness where he says another dimension exists above life as we humans know it. Come to find out it is revealed that this location is in the Everglades of Florida and nothing can stop Roy and Lucas from taking Alton there.
I found “Midnight Special” to be particularly slow in comparison to Nichols’ other films and for whatever reason this picture didn’t hold my attention the near two hours it ran. Up until the groups final push to get Alton to Florida there were very few moments of heightened suspense or drama dark enough to keep me thinking; the first part of this film was, for lack thereof, incredibly boring and lack the intensity necessary to excite an audience. In the latter half of the film the plot really begins to take shape but by then it’s too late.
“Midnight Special” might be worth a late night view for dedicated fans of science fiction, but doesn’t offer a whole lot more. I give “Midnight Special” 2.5 out of 3 stars.