Midnight Special Movie Review
It’s only June, and this year’s most overlooked movie award may already have found a winner: Midnight Special, the sci-fi thriller with a killer cast and a super-powered kid that you’ve never heard of. Maybe it was the horrible movie title or the lack of promotion or some combination of the two, but Midnight Special never had a chance—and it certainly deserves one.
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who tends to create good-though-not-quite-mainstream dramas and thrillers (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud), Midnight Special is a good-though-not-quite-mainstream thriller that stars Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard.
Oh, and Jaeden Lieberher, who plays a boy who has been taken from the religious extremist group by his father (Shannon) due to his mysterious powers. With the government on their tail, the two, accompanied by a rogue state trooper (Edgerton), race to get a specific destination where they believe they’ll finally understand his purpose in life… whatever that may be.
Midnight Special is not a traditional action-thriller, even though there is action and plenty of thrills, and that’s probably why Warner Bros. shied away from and struggled with the promotion of this film. Nichols is a great writer and director, but he has always opted for understatement—a preference that does come to the detriment of this particular film. There are car chases, and shootings, and other crazy things that happen, but Nichols seems unwilling to offer up a traditional action sequence, even when the situation calls for it or when a little extra dose of excitement could have taken his film to the next level.
As is, Midnight Special is a movie that leans a little closer to pure sci-fi, with a story that works because in some ways it feels grounded in reality but has a very non-grounded bent to it. The movie is fast paced, but what propels it forward is not excitement factor as much as the mystery surrounding the boy’s powers—and his claims for what lays beyond human comprehension.
Midnight Special is a well-made film that deserves much more attention than it received in theaters, though some of the blame falls on Nichols’ shoulders—had he amped up the action or excitement just a little bit, this film would have been truly special.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.