Midnight Special Review 

Director: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver. 

The Overview

A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers. (Source: IMDB)

The Good

The trailers for this showed a lot of promise, with deliberately very little given away, and indeed the first part of this film builds on this with a slow build-up of tension. This creates an air of mystery and intrigue; we have shots of two men fleeing with a young boy, and the FBI closing in on a religious group who are then taken for questioning regarding their involvement with the boy. I thought this was really clever, and I loved the slow burn approach, as it left me wondering just who this boy was and what his significance is.

The dynamics between the characters were really good, and I particularly liked the father and son relationship portrayed between Michael Shannon and Jaeden Lieberher. It was believable from the offset, and helped to make the film particularly compelling, grounding it in something real and honest, despite the sci-fi premise.

This film is absolutely beautiful to look at the, the cinematography is gorgeous, with the scenery shots in particular being particularly stand out. There’s some wonderful visual imagery as well, I really liked Alton’s slightly strange outfit; the blue goggles and orange headphones really stood out, particularly in one scene against an all white background.

I also adored the score by David Wingo; the mix of electronic and orchestral works really well, suiting the tone perfectly. It is the sort of score I could imagine listening to independently of the film, which is always a good sign.

I thought the performances in this film were pretty solid, the young playing Alton Meyer, and Kirsten Dunst in particular. Dunst seems to be on a bit of a resurgence recently, and I was surprised to see her in this film playing such an honest, genuine role. My previous reference points for Dunst have been the noughties cheerleading comedy Bring it On, and of course the Spider-Man movies, so it’s great to have some newer (and better) ones!

The Bad

Whilst there were plenty of things I enjoyed about this film, and for the most part I enjoyed it, there were just a couple of things lacking for me.

It had a strong start, but I felt the reveal about the boy happened too early into the film, and everything that followed just wasn’t as interesting once we knew what was going on. The slow burn start worked so well for me that I felt they could have prolonged this, unravelling the plot in layers rather than just giving it to the audience unearned.

Halfway through the film it seemed to forget about the religious group as well, and I thought this was a particularly interesting bit of the story. I don’t mind a film that leaves some things unexplained if the intention is that it is left open to audience interpretation, but I was left wondering what the point of Adam Driver’s character was, as good as he was in this film!

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. It’s very stylish, original, and the look of the film is enough to carry this through. What it has in style it lacks in substance somewhat, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. The performances are great, and the score alone is worth checking out. I’d say this one is worth a watch, but if you’re a bit on the fence, maybe wait for the DVD.  

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