Midnight Special (2016) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
248 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
wish all indies were this good...
A_Different_Drummer22 April 2016
and I can say with some certainty that Jeff Nichols has a heck of a career ahead of him.

To be frank, after your first 1000 or so IMDb reviews, you get a bit cynical. You start to understand that, in spite of the hype, movies are not as good as they used to be -- more like production-line white-bread, all mapped out and pre-sold into the appropriate distribution channels before the first viewer ever even gets a look -- and that in the same time period, TV has come to surpass film in terms of quality and entertainment value.

And then every now and then you get a film like Midnight Special and for a brief moment you start to think this medium might someday recapture its glory days.

I am not going to tell the story or do anything which will diminish your experience, should you choose to see this film.

I will simply say that, if you believe the primary goal of a movie is to hold your interest and entertain, this one does the job from the first frame to the closing credits.

Boy is that refreshing!

The actors -- not name actors -- were excellent.

The special effects were mind-boggling, especially for an indie.

The script breaks (or bends) some rules of conventional narrative but otherwise is so tight you could use it for a drum solo.

Highly recommended.
237 out of 339 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Unearthly Drama with an Emotional Punch
Skruffbagg21 April 2016
This film really came out of nowhere for me, as a comment by a stranger I overheard in a bar drew me to this, and thank you nameless stranger with impeccable taste! This is one of those sci-fi flicks that comes along every once in a while that actually has something to say without overuse of CGI and genre tropes.

I knew almost nothing about Midnight Special going in other than said comment, and I highly recommend you try to do the same. Therefore I will be as brief as possible to avoid spoilers.

Roy (Michael Shannon) is on the run with his 8 year old son Alden (Jaeden Lieberher) from a religious cult that worships the boy as some sort of messiah. Also in pursuit are the FBI and NSA, who are investigating several strange phenomena connected with the child. Roy enlists childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) to help them get to a specific location on a specific date, the reasons for which are unclear but may involve some sort of otherworldly or cataclysmic event.

The comparisons with Starman (1984) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) are apt, but this is very definitely a different movie altogether.

The actors are uniformly excellent, especially Michael Shannon, who gives another intense and believable performance as a man who would do anything for his son.

A bit has been made out of how the movie ends, but personally I found it a powerful emotional pay-off that I could feel in my chest, possibly due to the nostalgic feeling this film evokes.

In conclusion, go see it. A thought provoking sci-fi drama with a story to tell. A good one at that.
104 out of 155 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Beautifully filmed movie
gcarpiceci21 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is a beautifully filmed movie, with outstanding photography and good acting. The way the story is delivered is also very smart: the start creates quite a lot of intrigue and mystery as you don't really understand what is happening, and where the whole thing will go. Then the ending solves beautifully these tensions, it is quite an inspiring and even almost poetic finale, with very sleek shots of the extra world. So I enjoyed quite a lot this movie, though at the end I thought the story was a bit too light, I walked away with the feeling that there were quite a few questions left open and that I would have wanted to know more....like when you finish a dinner and you're still hungry....
120 out of 185 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Highly Disappointing SF Film Mashup
Cinnyaste22 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It's partially the casting, partially the direction sinking this film. Mostly it's a script cobbed together from "ET," "Starman," a dash of "CE3K," the Superman legend, "Village of the Damned," and generic child-in-jeopardy tale. That's the most amazing, and disappointing, aspect of "Midnight Special" - that the creative and original Jeff Nichols wrote a shamefully derivative script filled with plot holes large enough to fly a mothership through.

After a compelling first act, "Midnight Special" turns into a boring chase/race-against-time story of an extraordinary, luminous boy with 'powers and abilities far beyond that of mortal men' sought by the Feds and a cultish church who venerate him because he speaks coordinates in tongues. This boy comes from "a world-on-world" whose inhabitants watch over us. (Given the state of the world, they're doing a crappy job.) The explanation tracks more like angels from another dimension than aliens.

The boy, played by Jaeden Lieberher, fails to create sympathy through all the chaos. The wonderful Kirsten Dunst has never been more wasted in a placeholder role as the boy's mom. Shannon is his hulking father. Edgerton only serviceable as a tag along State Trooper. They dodge bullets on a lumbering path to specific Florida coordinates where the boy has a date with destiny; the merging of dimension X and our pitiful dimension. Other luminous beings spirit the boy away and POOF - the convergence disappears. Big deal! A most unsatisfying and anticlimactic end that does not inspire the wonder the special effects technicians hoped it would despite Mom's mugging at the otherworldly architecture.

It might occur this is a Jesus allegory with a 'birth' of a messiah from common parents. There's not a glimmer of that (save some 'fire from Heaven'). Early on, there was promise of social commentary about our over-surveilled lives. Nope. That's not present either. Also lacking, commentary about people steeping in religious fervor to fill absences in themselves. The church members, including Sam Shepherd, are caricatures.

"Midnight Special" adds neither subtext nor exposition to a story begging for some. Even the title derived from the song doesn't track. "Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me." Okay, he did shine light, but the Feds - after everyone within a hundred mile radius sees the other world - still prosecute and jail Dad and the Trooper. That we're deaf, dumb and blind in a mysterious Universe is not a lot to be left with after two hours.

Too much mystery ruins a film - the slight flash of light in Dad's eyes at fade out an example. Without context, too much mystery makes "Midnight Special" an uncooked, epic misfire in this dimension or any other. Give it a pass.
164 out of 268 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
2 Hours on the fine balance of leaving or staying
hutzdani23 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers Ahoy.

A solid movie, good casting good acting and the premise of a good story, some lovely shots and interesting ideas.

However it sits on the line of Jesus this is becoming boring and i'll wait and see how it pans out.

Pans out I should have left, not much story for the audience to stick with and so many subtle gestures and nods between cast members the tread is very very thin.

The idea is interesting enough a boy with unknown special powers that the US Gov thinks they can capture him and use him as a weapon, but no reason as to why they think this.

The decoding of Gov transmissions via satellites to find a location is neither explained or has any real tangible reason to be in such a location as others had been shown parts of the layered on civilization before and not at the special location.

Two hours of not really knowing what the kids power or purpose was all he does some nodding/longing and barley 2 paragraphs of dialogue, stares and vanishes off into this other world he is part of.

There is some average CGI to show off this world for about 60 seconds and SLAM the end.

No reason as to why he needs to go / why he was afraid of day light / why the US wanted him as a weapon.

An E.T idea in principle for the modern day but not very exciting and leaves all questions unanswered, if there is to be a sequel I won't be spending my money on it again. . .

Average movie for a rainy day on rental, worth the cinema price NO, worth the price of a DVD possibly.
88 out of 143 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Really engaging story, very refreshing - superb!
makka-009558 June 2016
I didn't expect much from this movie, given it's odd title, but what a pleasant surprise. Well written, excellent acting performances all round. I couldn't fault the movie, it's well worth seeing and I hope it gets the plaudits it richly deserves. Jaeden Lieberher is going to be a star, judging by his excellent performance as Alton. I think the message is definitely about the power of parental love and the lengths we go to in order to protect our children, even in the face of insurmountable odds. This is a genre that not everyone likes, including myself, but I loved it. It definitely has a retro feel about it, whilst having an original twist. There are strong acting performances from the rest of the cast and I thoroughly recommend it.
45 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Midnight Special is definitely Special
tardieu-felix16 February 2016
With Midnight Special, Jeff Nichols enters the pantheon of those nostalgic American filmmakers armed with their lens flares, Pandora's boxes and deeply sentimental reasons, driven by a protective father figure and a maternal relationship to the plot itself.

Lately, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar walked on the same path, and in many ways Midnight Special strangely looks like Interstellar. There's always the same contrast between gigantic and local stakes/issues that can already be found in Spielberg's filmography : on one side, humanity's fate is at stake, supervised by an omnipotent government, and on the other side it is (and perhaps only) a "family affair".

David Wingo's soundtrack is electrifying, the script is intelligent enough for not telling us the whole plot and characters' background in a few lines of dialogue, and despite a half-hearted performance by Michael Shannon, who still shines in its restraint, and some facilities in scriptwriting approaching the end of the film, Midnight Special is so perfectly controlled that it would be difficult to get out of the theater unscathed.
121 out of 207 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good but not special
bartonj24105 April 2016
Midnight Special is a modern day science fiction film with a very old school feel running through its veins. Jeff Nichols has made it no secret that classic sci-fi films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind are inspirations for his film however, I find the fact that his relationship with his own son was used as an inspiration too, much more intriguing.

Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is an eight-year-old boy who possesses otherworldly powers. When his father, Roy (Michael Shannon), takes his son and flees from a religious cult, they must travel across the country to an undisclosed location on a specific date, during which a celestial and possibly world-changing event may occur.

Mystery is a strong point for Midnight Special, the entire mystery surrounding Alton's powers, what will happen on that specific date and the reason a religious cult want him back, all playing a part in making the story such a captivating one. Then comes the film's climactic moment. We get answers, but they end up ruining some of the mystery that made what came before so good. Less is more definitely sprung to mind as it all unfolded.

The story, written by Jeff Nichols, is a very good one and at the heart of that story is a rather beautiful relationship between a father and son. It adds another layer to the film rather than it just being a standard story about people on the run, and as mentioned earlier, it really feels like a personal film from Nichols. Not saying that his son has special powers though, so don't think that.

In a rather short directorial career, Nichols has made quite a name for himself and Midnight Special should further his reputation. It's a very well made film but if there was one thing that stopped it from being great, it was the pacing. Unfortunately, this film dragged itself out through a few scenes and it really bugged me.

I cannot fault the film for its performances mind. Michael Shannon possesses such a magnetic screen presence, you just can't take your eyes off him and Joel Edgerton certainly makes his presence felt, even if his role remains a little unexplained. Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver offer good support and Jaeden Lieberher is rather good as Alton.

It may be that, in time, I appreciate Midnight Special more however, my initial experience warrants me to say that it's not the special film I was hoping for.
70 out of 119 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Amazing sci-fi that treats its audience with respect
maripere957 April 2016
First and foremost, Jeff Nichols is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors working today, and I honestly believe that his movies have increasingly become better.

Midnight Special starts off in the middle of the plot, and does not rely on exposition. This movie treats its audience with respect and allows them to piece together the reasons and events throughout the progression of the film. It gives just enough detail in order to understand but not too little to have no idea what is going on. We are put in the same position as the characters in this movie - where we know just as much as they do about the origin and extent of the child's powers. Although the ending is a twist that many probably do not understand, it feels deserved and does not feel out of place in the context of the movie; however, the characters probably think it is out of place, but that is because they do not have the outsider perspective that the audience does. In terms of the characters, Michael Shannon's character does feel like a father who would genuinely do this for his son (especially because he may feel as though he is making up for lost time) and the other characters are very enjoyable and feel necessary to the movie. The atmosphere and feel of the movie is amazing, and even though the plot itself sounds absurd - a father and son are on the run from religious extremists because the son possesses special powers - but it is much more than that and feels believable in its execution.
48 out of 80 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Took itself way too seriously
lesliebill19 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reading the earlier reviews, I almost wonder if I saw a different version of this movie! The story line was overly grandiose, took way too long to develop, and the movie would have redeemed itself in my mind only with a super profound ending ... which it did not have.

The plot touched all the hot buttons: supernatural abilities, check! government conspiracy, check! one "good guy" amongst the bad gov't guys, check! religious extremists who don't understand the profound nature of the supernatural skill, check! But the narrative couldn't credibly tie it all together.

I agree with some of the prior comments on beautiful photography and great special effects, but way too much was left unexplained and what was explained was not, in my mind, very special at all. I left the theatre really disappointed.
71 out of 130 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"They belong here - Mozambique!"
bob-the-movie-man11 April 2016
Being a film review guy, people often ask me what my favourite film of all time is, and it's a difficult question to answer. I have a 'head' film list and a 'heart' film list, and depending on my mood the lists can shift. However, always near the top of the 'heart' list without fail is Spielberg's 1977 original cut of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" - a film that just blew me away at the cinema on first release. Here in "Midnight Special" we have the nearest thing I've seen to a loving tribute to that classic.

Our hero Roy (obviously!) played by Michael Shannon (Zod from the recent "Superman" reboots), and with help from childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), kidnap a strange light-sensitive child with strange powers from the Texan HQ of a doomsday-focused religious cult led by Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard). The child - Alden - is played really well by 9 year-old Jaeden Lieberher.

Triggering a state and then nationwide manhunt, the trio meet friend and foe on their journey into an uncertain future.

While most strikingly resembling "Close Encounters", the film drops in - either knowingly or unintentionally - parallels to a host of other Sci- Fi films including "Cocoon", "ET", "Tomorrowland" and "Village of the Damned". You might conclude from this comment that this is just a Sci- Fi by numbers quilt: but - while there are probably few truly original Sci-Fi stories left to define - the writer/director Jeff Nichols does succeed in ploughing his own narrative furrow in this well worked field by throwing in a road-movie smattering of "The Sugarland Express" or "Thelma and Louise" into the pot.

What's refreshing in a Sci-fi movie (as was the case in the recent "10 Cloverfield Lane") is that Nichol's screnplay is intelligent enough to treat the audience with an IQ north of 100 by letting the story reveal itself. Some elements of the story (no spoilers) treat you as absurd: and then 30 minutes later there is an "Ah!" moment.

The key Performances by Jackson and Kirsten Dunst are good and very touching in places. Playing the "where have I seen him before" card is Sevier, the lead scientist (why didn't he have jangling keys on his belt though?). If you give up, the answer is that he's played by Adam Driver, Kylo Ren from "Star Wars". For me though Joel Egerton particularly stands out. I've been critical of some of his performances in the past, but here he really nails it with a quiet and unassuming supporting role.

David Wingo's score worked well in places, but - sorry Mr Wingo - I was hankering at some points for swelling John Williams strings!

I could also be mildly critical of the cinematography by Adam Stone. Although very atmospheric, it takes the "Midnight" from the title rather literally in places: something that I can see causing difficulties for TV viewers in working out what the hell is going on in places.

This is a slower paced film than many might like, but for me it perfectly balances character with mystery and action. As such it grabs at least a draft slot in my films of the year.

By the way, following on from my previous review, Midnight Special has a BvS-quotient of 7.2% .... that's the percentage of this movie's budget to the budget of Batman vs Superman!
61 out of 112 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Plot holes in my lawn
darren-153-8908108 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This really is one of the most stupid films I have seen in a while. If you're not snooze busting after an hour you will at the least be questioning all the mistakes and attention to detail that takes place this rather dull and not very interesting movie.

1) Explosion at the petrol station, the windows are blown out in the van. Next scene, the windows are fine 2) A man is on the run, its now gone national. Yet man manages to drive through a police convoy, and not only that, he has blood all over his face and top! 3) Very same man has been shot, but oh no, that very same man is fine now 4) Man in car break through barrier, bearing in mind, this is an FBI operation, barrier has 2 only two cars. These cops are so dumb that don't they think to shoot the tires, oh no, in a typical scooby fashion, they get back in the cars and chase the car. 5) So these very same dumb cops are following car with damaged steering it must be said, all the while an unknown world appears, growing bigger in front of our very eyes, but these dumb cops are so committed to solving the crime they fail to notice this happening, instead, when the car finally crashes they point guns at the car, not even looking at the miracle scenes that have just happened. 6) Almost missed this one, 1st 30 mins are focused on a cult, then you don't hear or see them again.

This really is a dumb movie! I went in not knowing anything about it. I shouldn't have bothered. Its total garbage. 4 is a bit too generous of a score. But I did like some of the cinematography
49 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
lack of imagination
utzeta6 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I don't usually go to the cinema without knowing anything about the film, but this time I did. My husband said the movie is well rated so it should be worth the time and money.

It was not, but let's say it helps to see what it does to a film when form/style is more important than the story. The first half of the movie gives you hope for something really original to follow. That is not the case.

The timing in the movie where we get to asking ourselves "what exactly are we watching" was so obvious in the cinema, cause everybody seemed to be quietly whispering to each other: is the boy an angel?, is he Jesus? :D is he from Krypton??

The point where the father worries about what a superman comics will do to his son's imagination is quite promising. So, he is not the savior he was taught he is, he is not from another planet (presumably because his parents are sure they did not adopt him), and he needs to learn what is real. What is real? please please don't let him be from another dimension, not one right on top of this world (Earth, not the entire universe), not one where beings made of light and walking (walking!) in a most uncomfortable way are watching us and have been doing so for a long while... not a world that looks like tomorrow-land! But that is what you get, after painstakingly watching supernatural powers being described as radio powers, blue light coming from the child's eyes and giving a sense of peace to the ones he is sharing that with, kinetic powers, and only being able to go (back?) to the other dimension at a particular time and place. And a mother cutting her blonde hair but smiling because she knows she will always be special, because she conceived a child who is from another dimension and is always watching his father, through blue light shining in his eyes.

An exercise in style who is supposed to be a tribute to past good sci-fi movies and ends up being a moronic parody of them. But even without being aware of any other sci-fi movie, isn't it better to have a story in a movie than merely style? If you can live with the lack of originality you might enjoy the movie. But it cleverly tricks you into high expectations and delivers so very little in the end.
34 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
If you want everything spelled out for you...
laughin9813 June 2019
...this is not the movie for you. If you like a little ambiguity and are okay with a movie that allows and even requires you to fill in the blanks, it's an amazing film. There are some slower parts to it, but they are earned and important. But if you're left at the end bothered by a bunch of questions, it's because this isn't the kind of movie that's made for you. (Also: if you have to name four or five films "mashed together" to label a film "derivative," you're trying too hard. All modern stories are derivative if you can name enough things they are "derived" from.)
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
All it needed was ....something!
doorsscorpywag23 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
With elements of Close Encounters, ET, Knowing, X-Men, The Abyss and Firestarter we have a near 2 hour bore fest with co-ordinates to nowhere and nothing to do when we get there. Who was the little boy?

Who were the magic people in the sky who have no TV so watch us all the time?

That is the creepiest part of it the idea that some light eyed weirdo is watching you as you attend to toilet functions and such as they have their morning honeydew and lettuce leaf.

The authorities are utterly stupid as even when confronted by the blindingly obvious the best question they can come up with is about how the kid disappeared?

I like Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst and the early scenes with them were interesting until we began to reveal what this tripe was about.

So the religious set are satisfied as it's proof Jesus exist, the science boffins now know we are not alone however THEY are a bit TOO close for comfort and who knows what bit of Earth they are watching that affects your night time activity and Internet nut cases can ponder what it means until MS2 appears.

Either we have to figure out a plan to destroy them or they might send another group of pointless kids for us to chase after to absolutely no purpose.

Like that Cloverfield 2 rubbish a waste of 2 valuable hours and months of expectation. I said I would not fall for it again after that Cloverfield lane crap but they know you always will and I indeed did.

They might have nice houses but I did not see any tanks. I recommend immediate invasion and steal their stuff especially any tapes marked 'Animals do the strangest things SE144 Blindfold Edition'.
67 out of 128 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This Didn't Work
judyjholland23 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
My spoilers are necessary to make my point.

This movie leaves a heck of a lot of information out.

Firstly, the movie seems to start in the middle of an ongoing story.

You're left confused for at least the first fifteen minutes.

Once you get enough information to realize finally what's going on, the rest of it doesn't work.

Yeah. It's a kid with special powers. Mind boggling powers. Not of this Earth powers.

His biological mother and father Roy and Sarah, go on the run with him being chased by a crazy fanatical religious group and of course the government.

The kid tells his parents he is from another planet and he does not belong here. He has to be at a certain place at a certain time.

We, being a smart audience, figure the kid needs to be there, cause his race of alien relatives, will be picking him up at this location.

Unfortunately, the government figures out where the location is too and is only one step behind them at each and every turn.

This is why the movie did not work (I mean if the lack of answers and information didn't already do you in).

If the kid is from another planet, has powers and while looks human, isn't, HOW are those two his biological parents?

How do two people from Earth, give birth to an alien kid from another planet?

No. We are not supposed to come to our conclusions and figure it out in our heads. It's OK if some movies leave a smidge to the imagination, but when you make a scenario completely impossible, it doesn't mesh. If there's a big story about how two human from Earth gave birth to an alien kid, you cannot leave all of that out of a story. It's too much.

The way they did this makes it sound like aliens messed with human creation and implanted their own DNA into the womb of a human here on Earth.

In the movie the kid says "they've been watching us for a long time."

Viewers like a beginning, a middle and an end.

Bringing people into a story where you feel like you missed the first half hour, isn't pleasant. Confusion is no fun.

Having dad's, mom's and alien kids who couldn't possibly be related, but are, doesn't work.

Sorry. While this flick was somewhat interesting, I did not like the format, or the lack of information. Way too much was missing.

Did. Not. Work.
64 out of 122 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poorly written, massive waste of time.
workshop-226-74356121 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I don't usually write movie reviews but felt people need to be warned about this. As other people have written, on the plot and story level this movie is ridiculously stupid. A couple of examples are things like the windows being blown out of a car and in the next scene them being in tact again. An invisible city appearing and then disappearing, being witnessed by people across the entire Southwest United States (including hundreds of federal agents) then in the next scene the very same federal agents questioning one of the stars of the movie if he expects them to believe the boy woman just vanished? Then in the next scene you see the other character in a prison yard. If the film had been extraordinarily entertaining this things would be forgivable (Several David Lynch films come to mind) but it isn't. The film is slow and convoluted and you think the things that are not explained will be explained in the end. They aren't. This movie is a joke...this film will never see a theater nor should it.
60 out of 116 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Where's the wit? Where's the wonder?
Scunner10 May 2016
This reminded me of a couple of films, namely Close Encounters and Starman, but with everything good about them ripped out, thrown on the floor and stamped on.

What remained was an overall joyless experience as two sullen, largely monosyllabic mumbling men drove a kid with glowing eyes home for two hours. Of course they had a couple of hurdles to overcome but at no point do you think "Oh no, they're not going to get the glowing eyed kid home". Where previously films of this oeuvre have employed wit, humanity and a sense of wonder to fabulous effect the director of this sullen dross did little other than smash you repeatedly in the face shouting "I AM SERIOUS, I AM IMPORTANT" by making the repetitive turgid soundtrack blare progressively louder and louder. It was bombastic pseudo-intellectual rubbish masquerading as serious cinema.

Just because everyone looks miserable and hardly anyone says anything doesn't automatically make something good. You have to have talent to pull that off and make people care about your morose protagonists despite themselves. Whereas the only comparable thing this nonsense succeeded in doing was making me like a guy from the NSA, basically because he was the only one who seemed capable of speaking in entire sentences and looking slightly interested in what was going on.

I'd rather be forced to sit and watch E.T over and over again Clockwork Orange style for a week than expose myself to this inane garbage again. And I hate E.T.
53 out of 103 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Midnight Special
abouhelier-r17 March 2016
A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers.

Midnight Special or the buzziest title of this year's Berlin Film Festival. Still settled under a larger than life mysterious Southern sky, still lead by Michael Shannon, Jeff Nichols' cinematography welcomes sci-fi elements. Nichols new film is closer to Take Shelter as it went beyond the mysteries of the human heart and into a more cosmic enigma. Here Jeff Nichols pays transporting homage to the rich tradition, spanning the late 70s through the mid-80s, of intelligent sci-fi, emotionally grounded in relatable human dynamics. Midnight Special is the first movie of the director to be produced by a major studio (Warner Bros.); though this film is as stylish as all of his former pictures, even if this time around he must have been more aware of criticism and must have had to defend his ideas and choices to impose his point of view again and again.

What if there were something new in the world? And what if it was your son? The main theme of this movie is a father and son journey, literally on the road, with a father trying to understand where his son has to be and helping him to go there. I've been immediately interested by the title of this film and after some googling, I found the reference to the folk song covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival, which featured memorably in the opening scene of the 1983 Steven Spielberg big screen spin off of The Twilight Zone. There's a wave of young filmmakers brought up in the 70s and 80s blockbusters that changed the Hollywood system, who are doing their best to replicate them. J.J. Abrams already managed to work alongside Steven Spielberg himself for throwback fantasy Super 8 before taking charge of the rebooted Star Wars franchise - and others such as Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson or Joss Whedon are clear students of the multiplex masters who birthed the event movie.

Characters are not superheroes, but looked upon as normal people. Once again, in constant collaborator Michael Shannon, Nichols finds the perfect engine to power this delicate story forward - was ever any actor so able to project an aura of utter conviction, even when faced with the impossibly wrenching eventuality that the only way to save his child might be to let him go? Alton embodies the never ending possibilities of the universe. No one ever experienced what comes after death (well, no one came back to tell us anyway), other dimensions or metaphysical appearances of God. None of these things are tangible, but men want them to exist. Alton is the personification of this need.

Moreover, Jeff Nichols did not forget that we as an audience are smart people. We've grown up with movies, we've been taught to pay attention to what was happening on screen; as soon as a new character emerged, we began instinctively to make supposition and hypothesis on his link and relationship with other characters and his environment. He relies on the ability of an intelligent audience to make sense of what is happening. This film is made almost entirely of mysteries and none of which are resolved by the final scenes. The bigger the questions you ask are, the less likely it is you can answer them in any satisfying, definitive way and the human, existential, metaphysical questions that Midnight Special poses, if you care to look for them, are enormous.

The visual effects heavy sequences raises more questions than it answers. Was Alton an alien, an angel, a more highly evolved human being? Was he going to heaven, or another dimension? The explanation is ultimately less important than what Alton's journey succeeds in illustrating about human nature - demonstrating just how desperately some people want to believe. In fact, the sci-fi elements of the film have an organic style, they look quite real, inspiration of movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by Steven Spielberg or even Starman by John Carpenter with their opaque dark night. Religious themes aside, though, Nichols draws on both the paranoia of those 1980s films - the feeling that the government is a largely faceless, monolithic force, out to control and suppress all forms of wonder - and on Steven Spielberg's blockbusters filmmaking rhythms. Plus, family is a central theme in all Jeff Nichols' movies as well as couple relationships. Always a contradictory love or even an impossibly love, a love that has to fight in order to survive. A real tragic dimension as well as romantic is present in this vision of love And I like it, I grew up with > More on my blog
27 out of 49 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind " meets "Village of the Damned".
barev-8509424 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Midnight Special", USA, Competition.at Berlin 66: Festival Reviews by Alex Deleon: Photo: Midnight Special press conference at Berlin, with Jaeden Lieberher, child star. "Midnight Special" by Jeff Nichols, 37, his fourth feature, featuring Sam Shepard and Kirsten Dunst, Starring Nichols' regular Michael Shannon, and introducing charismatic child actor Jaeden Lieberher, 11.

This is high style sci-fi kitch set in the American south with lots of nightime car chases and spooky set pieces like the bombardment from space of a gas station to demonstrate the extraordinary powers of the kid in the back seat with the shining eyes. Extraterrestial children with radiating eyes were first employed in the British sci-fi thriller "Village of the Damned", 1960, and this has since become a standard Scifi cliché to notify audiences that children who radiate optically are not Of This World. The reference to Close Encounters comes at the end when we are treated to a view of extragalactic Space City to which child with glowing eyes will return. This set which looks like a giant tangle of Mobius Strips extending to infinity was pooh-poohed by many hard nosed critics who claimed it was too kitchy. I personally liked it because it added the perfect kitch icing to what is essentially a high-kitch layer cake with style to burn. Everybody wants a piece of this kid with glowing eyeballs and amazing kinetic powers which escalate as the film proceeds. A religious cult headed by Sam Shepard, (who has the Right Stuff as a self-assured religious cult fanatic) --to connect them with God; the CIA, to use him as a Secret Weapon; and the local police on general principles, not to mention his mother, Kirsten Dunst, who just wants her child back after he is kidnapped by his feckless biological father. One tricky question: How did Kirsten Dunst (still looking good at 35) give birth Here on Earth to an Alien from a different world? -- but you don't let such trivia bother you when you're enjoying the ride, and this film is one Heckuva ride! PS: "Midnight Special" is the perfect title for a flick that is probably destined to become a cult favorite at the Midnite Movies. Alex, Hotel Alper, Berlin, Monday, Feb. 22.
34 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
E.T. for stupid adults,a sci-fi mash up
djangozelf-123514 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie starts all wrong,ends all wrong and in the middle just boring filler to move along the silly story that does not make much sense.

It plays to much on "the mystery"and has to many sideways that are really never resolved. It looses meaning at the end because you still don't know who this kid/alien was.

The performances felt made or forced but that probably has a lot to do with the way the roles were written.A lot of the actors felt type casted but especially the roles for Joel Edgerton and Reese Witherspoon felt really poor.

I also think the marketing targeted the wrong group of people or fooled them into go seeing this movie. I was disappointed by it and it didn't engage me and therefor it didn't entertain me.

I found the ending to be very anti climatic and it just left you with a bunch of riddles you don't wanna know the answers to.

I think it's fair to say I did not like and I don't recommend it.

It has some more production value than an indie movie but that's not enough if you have such a bad script or execution of it.

If someone can make sense out of this movie...

20 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Thought-provoking and spares the details
drownnnsoda23 March 2016
"Midnight Special" focuses on a father (Michael Shannon) who goes on the run with his son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) who seems to be a conduit channeling earthly and celestial information, as well as being the chosen prophet of a religious cult in rural Texas, from which his wife (Kirsten Dunst) formerly fled. The bulk of the film entails the family's mission to bring Alton to a specific geographical location (for purposes that remain relatively undisclosed until the end) while the FBI, CIA, and US military relentlessly pursue them.

To put it straight, I am not typically a sci-fi fan, but Jeff Nichols's "Midnight Special" almost defies the category itself in many ways. The film starts out with a starkly ambiguous premise, and revels in its own ambiguity for the majority of its duration; Nichols keeps a steady hand on the trigger from the opening scene to the visually astounding conclusion, and the audience is kept in a state of contemplation and wonder that never really closes in on itself.

In many ways, it's a road film, and in others it is full-blown science fiction-meets-the horror aspects of "Village of the Damned" with shades of David Lynch. The rural backwoods of the south and its rundown gas stations and forlorn meadows and wetlands stand as the backdrop against which the action is set—mostly at night—and Nichols has a keen eye for visuals; it's an aesthetically beautiful movie, artfully shot and eye-catching. Michael Shannon plays a role that is tailored for him in all of his contemplative and quiet idiosyncrasies, while Joel Edgerton is incredibly believable as his Texas state trooper friend helping the mission. Kirsten Dunst turns in a fine performance as his estranged wife, and is emotive and revels in what is a relatively unglamorous but substantive role. Jaeden Lieberher is also fantastic and fittingly precocious at the film's center.

I've read some reviews in which audiences have taken issue with the film's conclusion, but I felt it was a thought-provoking and poignant ending to a remarkably enigmatic story. The special effects do become increasingly ambitious as the film's heavier sci-fi elements rear their head, but the effects are well-done, and the visuals that the film ends itself on are truly breathtaking.

Overall, "Midnight Special" is a visionary film from a visionary filmmaker through and through. It draws inspiration from a confluence of sources, melding Spielberg-like science fiction with the uncanny nightmarishness of a David Lynch picture. It's visually phenomenal, but, aesthetics aside, is simply an engaging and thought-provoking story that is as otherworldly as it is human. 9/10.
28 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The worst kind of bad movies.
sedit10 June 2016
There are 2 kings of bad movies:

  • The ones that are plain bad from the beginning, and you stop watching them rapidly, cutting your losses.

  • The ones that look initially appealing, and turn into an horrible mishmash of meaningless drivel, but in such a way that you stay until the end, hoping for it to get better.

(some spoilers here)

Midnight Special is the second kind. I'm all for superpowers, aliens, bad government wanting to kill or exploit the gentle benevolent being everybody roots for, but here the story devolves into some incomprehensible emotional junk that looks like a religion propaganda movie, but without the religion.

23 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
pthork15 July 2018
To anyone giving this movie anything less than a 7/10... you are uncultured in film and have not the eye of a true indie film lover. You are the same person that quotes legally blonde and spends half their time scrolling through Instagram during a movie.

This movie, including the director, is unique in many ways including his choice of actors, scripts, score, and cinematography. It introduced new ideas, not recycled plots/theories from other films, and did it in such a magical way that can't be compared to any other film. And the end of the film reveals an amazing hidden truth about the universe that has all captured our imagination at least once in our life before, and that this movie does a fabulous job of making it real.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Slow Burning, This Sci-Fi Drama/Actioner Wins You Over In The End
cadillac2029 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.
15 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed