Review: “Midnight Special”


Logan Peterson

Science fiction meets familial drama in “Midnight Special,” the latest film from up-and-coming director Jeff Nichols; it tells the story of a boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) who goes on on the run with his father, while a religious cult and the federal government are drawn to the boy’s otherworldly powers.

Director Nichols throws exposition out the window and puts the audience right in the middle of a thrilling story at a break-neck pace. Nichols challenges the audience by leaving important pieces of information out in the open, almost dangling it in front of them like forbidden fruit. The intricate story keeps audiences focused and on the edge of their seats from the very first frame, and it never lets up.

Nichols has had an excellent track record thus far, but it is with this film that he deserves to be recognized among the forefront of new filmmakers ready to take firm hold of Hollywood. The direction is Spielberg-esque with his use of visual storytelling and the development of his imaginative, three-dimensional characters.

Lying beneath the surface of the obscure sci-fi elements is a story of family and intense spirituality. The idea of faith beyond any reasonable doubt is a theme of which the film has an absolute grasp. The film in its entirety may be an allegory for religion and faith: something so ambiguous and uncertain, yet so powerful that you must believe it to be true.

Interestingly enough, it is easy to look past even the most grandiose visual elements and find a story rooted in the idea of family–family and all of its delicate nature. I can still feel the passion of many of the performances, especially that of Michael Shannon, the driving force of “Midnight Special.”

Shannon plays Alton’s father, Roy with intense singularity. He’s a desperate man who knows his son has a purpose in life, he just isn’t sure what. Shannon plays Roy as a man of unflinching faith, who will stop at nothing to protect his family; he gives another incredible performance in what has been an impressive, albeit underrated career.

The film, though, is not perfect. The ambiguity comes at a cost, and the lack of exposition can hinder the development of the characters. Despite this, the film came at the most perfect time; a time when innovation is lacking in today’s filmmaking. Because of this, I consider Nichols to be a glimmer of hope for the future of film. And I consider “Midnight Special” an important piece of imaginative filmmaking, and the best film of 2016 so far.

Grade: A-