By: Andres Sereno
From the director of Take Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols, comes this sci-fi thriller/drama that combines great VFX, chase car action and great, yet subtle, performances. Also written by Nichols, Midnight Special is hard to decipher at first, there’s no clear intension and no specific genre is defined. The movie itself leaves a lot of questions unanswered but at the end everything works in a way that audiences will feel, at the very least, satisfied.
Everything starts in the middle of what it seems to be a kidnaping. There’s an Amber alert announced on television and everybody is on the hunt for Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher), who was abducted by Roy (Michael Shannon) with the help of his best friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). We later find out that Roy is Alton’s biological father. The purpose of the abduction is to take Alton to a specific place but the actual reason is not yet known by the characters. At the same time, what appears to be a religious sect named “Third Heaven Ranch” is arraigned by the FBI. The Feds alongside a NSA agent, Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) are in the hopes of finding why the sect’s leader, Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard) is gushing words that are somehow related to encrypted government information. According to Calvin, everything comes from the kid, whom is seen by everyone in the sect as some kind of prophet. The FBI turns their search towards Alton and his capturers. The kid is later reunited with his mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), and with his father and Lucas are in the hopes of arriving to the place in question where everybody is yet to understand why and what is going to happen.
The plot is a combination of sci-fi, car chasing and family drama, making the movie a masterpiece with no single genre. The audience feels the excitement and thrill from the very beginning of the movie and stay alert to learn any detail that might unfold the mystery that surrounds the entire film. At the end, not everything is answered but somehow it climax in a way that nothing else needs to be answered.
The performances are superb; it seems that every single cast decision was on point. Shannon plays the decisive and protector father that even without knowing the objective of his actions is willing to go further no matter the consequences. Dunst portrays very well her role as a suffering mother. Edgerton is authentic in his acting. There’s also some wittiness added by Adam Driver. Even Sam Shepard as the sect’s leader produces an exceptional performance. Every single character is noteworthy but the biggest star is Jaeden Lieberher producing a mature and consistent performance as Alton.
Midnight Special seems reminiscent of classic American movies to the point that without the CGI and VFX it could easily be confused with an 80’s thriller although somehow it feels like an entire new thing. It is mysterious, thrilling and very catching. Although I believe a little bit more of backstory was needed but it is obvious that it wasn’t the intention. I definitely recommend it and give it 9/10.