Slow Burning, This Sci-Fi Drama/Actioner Wins You Over In The End
29 March 2016
Going into Midnight Special, I was excited. Jeff Nichols has made a name for himself crafting slow burn dramas with heart, mystery, and excellent acting. Having seen Mud and Take Shelter and enjoyed them immensely, I expected this one to be his best yet, with a plot that was right up my alley: A father protects his son, a seemingly supernaturally gifted young boy, as they go on the run from both the authorities and a cult. Low and behold, Nichols delivers once again, but not without a few bumps. But sure enough, this is his best film yet.

Nichols seems to be moving on up in his career, going from low key dramas like his two previous films to something more genre invested. Midnight Special is a sci-fi film, but it's very a-typical. Whereas we have seen films with these kinds of elements before, they've never been shown quite like this. As I said, however, the film takes some time to get going. When we start out, we are already in the midst of our primary characters on the run. From what, we're not entirely sure. We see scenes involving a cult that seems to worship the boy and we see the FBI also giving chase, but the reasons are never entirely clear. Over the course of the film, however, Nichols begins to slowly peel back what is happening. This is the perfect slow burn of a film. Nothing ever seems unnatural in it's explanation or reveal. What seems confusing and ambiguous at first, begins to unravel and a clear picture of what is actually happening and what truths lie beneath is revealed.

The film's true merit is it's heart. At the center of the story is Michael Shannon's Roy, a father who is willing to do anything for his son, Alton, a child who is seemingly gifted with powers, but at the same time seems to carry misfortune. Joining them is Joel Edgerton's Lucas, who we learn more about over the course of the film and why he is also sworn to protect the boy. Our antagonists don't fare quite as well, never really coming across as a great threat, but at the same time there's plenty of tension packed into scenes, and this is aided by truly excellent acting all the way around. Nichol's also has a way with his camera and editing, packing in gorgeous cinematography with editing that creates nail biting tension. The ending will have you on the edge of your seat, nearly ready to burst into tears.

However, I will also say this movie isn't for everyone. You may check out half way through, as I nearly did, and never come back. You also have to dig the sci-fi aspects of the movie, which I did. But if you've enjoyed Nichols previous films and want something different, this is an excellent choice. I don't want to spoil the surprises here, and the less you know going in the better, but if you want to be surprised, stick with this one and you may end up walking away loving it as much as I did.
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