Midnight Special stars Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Take Shelter), Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Gift), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Melancholia), Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent, Aloha) and is directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter).
With the help of his childhood friend, Roy (Shannon) is on the run with his son. They are being pursued by the government and a cult, who believe Roy’s son is someone special.
It’s hard to talk too much about the story because the first 2 acts of this film are very mysterious and part of the fun is having no idea what’s happening. Unfortunately that’s where the film also fails, when the end doesn’t fulfill the amazing first 2/3 of the film.
The strongest aspect of this film, is the incredible performances. Michael Shannon is an actor that has been putting in fantastic performance but hasn’t been getting the recognition he deserves. I don’t think people are going to be raving about Shannon after this film and I still don’t think people are going to be talking about him as much as they should but he gives an amazing performance in this film. Most of his roles, he plays the evil guy or someone you wouldn’t completely trust, in Midnight Special he’s a caring and really likable person. He proved in this film he’s not just the bad guy but can play anyone. I hope in the future people start looking at him as one of the best actors working today because he truly is.
I was just raving about Joel Edgerton in my Jane Got a Gun review last week and again he almost steals the show in Midnight Special. There were several times the camera would cut to him and he would only be staring but emoting so much and adding more to a scene without saying a word. Kirsten Dunst is good but to be honest I didn’t see the point in her character. Adam Driver is another guy, who keeps getting better and better every time I see him. He brings comedic relief in a film that is very intense and the relationships that develop between him and some of the other characters, were very interesting and something I would have liked to have seen more of.
The tone of Midnight Special is what really hooked me into this film, from the opening scene. I didn’t watch the trailers for this film and I wouldn’t recommend you do. This film for a large amount of time relies on the audience not knowing what’s happening, which creates a really intense tone. From the word go, your be asking questions, trying to figure out who everyone is and what they’re doing. 5 minutes into the film my heart was racing because I didn’t know what was happening and because of how incredible the directing was by Jeff Nichols. The opening scene reminded me a lot of the first scene in Drive. You hear the setup of what’s happening and then you get a car chase scene, that puts you on the edge of your seat.
Jeff Nichols is a director who I don’t think has made a bad film. Mud was one of my favorites of 2013 and Take Shelter is another great film. Midnight Special is my least favorite film of his but it’s far from a bad film. This was his first studio film (although still felt like an indie) and I wonder how much of the studio involvement might have played into the third act. For about an hour and a half, I was locked into this film, trying to figure out what was going on. A lot of indie films will be ambiguous throughout and not explain what was happening ever. Midnight Special pretty much tells you the mystery and for me it wasn’t satisfying.
Obviously I won’t give away the ending but when it did finally get to the reveal, I was left feeling very disappointed. We see a lot of horror films fall into the same trap. For 3/4 of a film they will build up to a monster that is terrorizing the characters and then when you see the monster or ghost, it’s no longer scary. Throughout this film I was emotionally affected by almost everything that was happening but then when it got to the end, I had the feeling of ‘is that it?’. I wasn’t surprised, it didn’t make me feel any sort of way, I was just bored by what I saw.
In the end I enjoyed this film and I would absolutely recommend seeing it. I’m sure there will be many people who did like the ending and will love this film but for me it didn’t work. The acting is superb and there were moments early on, when I was gripping onto my chair because of the intense directing.