Directed by Jeff Nichols
“Midnight Special”, the latest cinematic exposure by the adroit filmmaker, Jeff Nichols, is a passable cocktail that contains drama, sci-fi, and thriller in unequal proportions.
Mr. Nichols’ fourth motion picture features Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, and the young Jaeden Lieberher, in the leading roles. This is their first collaboration with the director, except for the earnest Mr. Shannon, who also starred in his other three dramas - “Shotgun Stories”, “Mud”, and “Take Shelter”, whose scripts I consider more satisfying than the object of this review.
Calling to mind Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (conceptually), Shyamalan’s “Signs” (visually), and one of the Italo Calvino’s invisible cities (in the last scenes), the story starts by bringing in the abduction of Alton Meyer (Lieberher), a gentle 8-year-old boy with supernatural abilities, who disappeared from the Texas religious cult ranch where he has been raised under the supervision of the leader pastor. The abductor is Roy (Shannon), Alton’s biological father, who was able to carry his act thanks to the help of Lucas (Edgerton), a state trooper and longtime loyal friend.
Alton’s mother, Sarah (Dunst), a former member of the cult, is another accomplice of the plan, which consists in taking her child to an uncertain location on a specific day, in which something serious is expected to happen.
Alton is naturally sweet and extra sensitive (he can replicate in real time what they’re saying on the radio) but also has the power of causing massive destruction when frightened or in danger. During the day, he uses blue goggles in an attempt to protect his eyes, which occasionally emit a spectrum of bright light. However, he's getting sicker each day, and this is the time to act.
Meanwhile, the FBI starts an investigation, relying on their smartest and trustful agent, Paul Sevier (Driver), who becomes essential in the communication with Alton, while the pastor sends two men to find Roy’s whereabouts and bring Alton back to the ranch.
Not so enrapturing as it promised, “Midnight Special” instigates you to imagine much more than what is really given.
Mr. Nichols had some difficulties in giving the best sequence to the mystery set in the first half while the religious connotations of the story felt a bit like a sham.
Despite intermittent in terms of thrills and action, the film, well acted and directed, assures fair entertainment.