After rescuing his son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) from a fundamentalist religious sect who are convinced his powerful supernatural abilities are the key to their salvation, Roy (Michael Shannon), Alton and their bodyguard Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are on the run for their lives. What starts as a desperate escape from a fearsome cult soon attracts the attention of the FBI who believe the boy to be a treat to mankind's very existence. With the trio's fate hanging in the balance, Roy will stop at nothing to keep his son from harm and uncover the truth behind his unbelievable powers, a discovery which could change the world forever.
Intriguing but laboured
- Midnight Special review by Alphaville
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You rated this film: 3
A silly tale given over-earnest treatment. With the help of his family a boy with mysterious powers – he can ‘think’ a satellite out of the sky – is on the run from the government. Something is about to happen, but what? The premise is intriguing and there’s enough incident to keep you watching, but the plot is all.
The deliberate pacing and mainly static medium close-up camerawork rob the few action scenes of any excitement. Too many scenes take place in darkness and shadow, further making for a dull watch. When we finally get an inkling of what’s going on after an hour, it’s all rather ridiculous and ultimately unsatisfying. It’s 80s Spielberg sci-fi without the flair.
Another Under the Radar Hit
- Midnight Special review by MD
(1) of (1) members found this review helpful.
You rated this film: 4
WARNING: Contains spoilers
I knew nothing about this film before renting it, but like a couple of other recent movies that received little or no attention from the multiplexes, it turned out to be far better than most of the blockbusters you see there.
The film starts slowly, and one major criticism I have is that it does tend to drag a bit in several places throughout the movie, but there is enough mystery and intrigue to keep you interested until the story really starts firing on all cylinders.
It is not a particularly original story, having antecedents in "Starman" and Spielberg's "ET" or "Close Encounters", but it is done from a new angle on the idea, and enough innovations and twists to make it seem fresh. The acting is virtually first rate from all concerned, not least the boy in the lead role, and there is a very satisfying cynicism from the director, who subtly critiques the way that religious sects and the US military would respond to an alien life form and anyone associated with it.
The fairly predictable ending is handled as well as could be expected, but by then you are kind of rooting for the underdog, as it were, and the final shot will certainly test you: only if you have really been paying attention will it make any sense.
My verdict: definitely worth a look if you want something rather different and more satisfying than most mainstream fare.
Midnight special, albeit original in its premise and possibly its execution thereof, falls short of managing to excite audiences and becomes yet another piece of a poorly told Sci-Fi tale that sounds better when read on paper as opposed to watching its events unfold on the big screen.
When it comes to titles, movies often fall between two extremes: either not having enough connections to relate said title to the unraveling narrative, or their titles directly relate (in one form or another) to a certain plot point or character that are key to understanding the movies’ syuzhet. Midnight Special is part of neither, and both at the same time – its title may suggest irrelevancy to everything that’s going on, but it’s in fact subtly interwoven all throughout the main theme of the movie.
In American folk culture terms, “Midnight Special” is a song dating around the first half of the 20-th century. In it, a train called Midnight Special is asked to “shine light” upon the singer. Also, the train name corresponds with a real train covering track between Chicago and St. Louis – with one way station being Alton, Illinois. The connection at this point comes obvious as a rock hitting a lake’s surface: our main character’s name is Alton.
But, what does that have to do anything with the story?
For starters, kid Alton Meyer (played by Jaeden Lieberher) can propel concentrated beams of white light via his eyes. Anyone who looks him while he does so becomes mesmerized and loses all touch with reality during that little séance.
Furthermore, Alton possesses supernatural abilities to intercept all kinds of telecommunication, and as such becomes a great interest to all kinds of strange people – including those currently in power.
Without delving into great detail, it’s clear the boy is wanted, and it only becomes logical thus far. But, writer and director Jeff Nichols never cares to explain why this is true and at a point it becomes frustrating to have a constant stream of new plot points without any kind of relief.
Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst play Alton’s parents and do a decent enough job to portray their great care, and at the same time – failure to provide their son with a normal childhood as every kid ought to have. Lucas (played by Joel Edgerton) seems like it only exists to tag along in the whole ordeal without clearly developed traits and character motivations. NSA agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) gets to interact with Alton, but both characters seem confused both in the narrative and outside in real life as actors.
Perhaps Midnight Special’s redeeming qualities lay in the ideas hidden behind the clumsy writing and (at times) questionable direction it takes, but as it is – they are too convoluted for one to actually care about, let alone wholeheartedly recommend this movie experience.