Midnight Special (2016) movie review
Midnight Special is an interesting film about a young boy with special powers who a cult sees as a prophet, the government sees as a threat and who’s parents just want to help him get away and get back home again. The movie is good if it seems like it’s a mashup of other movies that have come before with writer/director Jeff Nichols trying to insert a bit of depth to the whole thing while removing some of the fantastical/sci-fi elements. But I think this is what keeps Midnight Special from being a great film and instead makes it simply a good one.
Midnight Special almost starts in the middle of the story, with the beginning bits of why the characters are on the run and what powers the kid has being revealed via characters interactions and dialog. Here, father Roy (Michael Shannon) and son with powers Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) along with Roy’s old friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are on the run from the cult both were raised in all the while trying to get to some location Alton needs to get to with Amber Alert’s and police dodging them along their way. Alton is an odd boy who’s sun phobic and wears googles and earmuffs all the time. But he can also do things like pull and decrypt signals out of the air, literally drag satellites out of orbit and with these weird glowing eyes to “show” people things. Along the way they pickup Alton’s mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and come under the scrutiny of NSA analyst Sevier (Adam Driver) as the government races to find the boy before he causes even more damage.
Midnight Special is essentially an update of the John Carpenter Starman movie but with a 21st century vibe. Both movies feature an otherworldly person, played by Jeff Bridges in Starman, and a few regular people racing across the country to try and get to a location before it’s too late. Now I’m not saying that Midnight Special is a copy Starman, but they both have essentially the same underlying plot.
I’d say Midnight Special is a good movie if at times there’s a few too many things going on at once. Like there’s members of the cult chasing Alton’s group and they seem to be important characters in the movie, until they’re not anymore and are gone from the story. And the whole Sevier government agent story seems to get the short shrift too, even if it’s one of the more interesting parts of the movie with Driver being great in the role. I think Midnight Special would have been a much better movie if it would have just concentrated on either the religious aspect OR the government one. Otherwise, it’s one too many things going on in a movie that at times feels like there needs to be more explanation while at the same time seemed to drag in places.